Wednesday, November 21, 2012

over the river

Header Challenge: Over the River

November 21, 2012

Innisfree cruising Chgo Riv past Columbus Drive

This is my second of three installments as one of the Headbangers.  Please see the posts submitted by my cohorts Fishing Guy, Katney, Imac, Sandy and Lew.

Funny, I have been close to the Chicago River most of my life.  In fact, at one point I lived only half-a-block from the North Branch of the Chicago River.  That was during my dark ages-- i.e., when I did not have a digital camera and rarely used film because of the cost.

As with most photographic subjects, the background and secondary subjects have a significant impact on what we think of our primary subject.  Two years ago I found myself with an opportunity to visit Downtown Chicago, and I liked the view of the river there more than the spot where I used to live.

tourists boarding Skyline Queen on Chgo Riv
Yes, the water looks very green.  We dye the river every year for Saint Patrick's Day.

But the Chicago River has never made me weep.  So what's the story with this week's header?

That is a photo I took in 2005 from Payatas, in the Philippines.  There is a lot to love about the Philippines, but here, as our jeepney drew near to the area, the stench of rot hit our noses with unmitigated putrescence.  I was prepared for this, so I went into my backpack and retrieved a small jar of menthol ointment, smeared a little under my nose and passed it around to the others.  The rainy season brings steady rains to garbage mountain and that water percolates down from the summits, through the layers and layers until it flows down like a river in front of the huts.  (Wait--did he just say huts??)  This is the main garbage dump for Manila, so there is a vast deposit of refuse in this garbage dump, but if a mountain of refuse offends your sensibilities, that shock turns to heartbreak when you see that people have set up shacks... and live there!!  I saw little children playing and working in the squalor.  They look for anything they can sell to second hand stores.  I looked into the tub where two small children were doing laundry.  That swill was so disgusting a fly would plug its nose!
Payatas homes in rainy season - 2005

But there are people living there, so guess what... There are also pastors, teachers and nurses who selflessly choose to work there.  I was moved by those who denied themselves and sacrificed much for the sake of others.  I saw one humble pastor wiping this area's "mud" off of someone elses' feet.  It reminded me of Jesus washing his disciples' feet.  This river of sorts, which began as the flowing sludge of pure tragedy has now become a path for mercy.  And the extraordinary kindness of a few has become the means for empathy and compassion to permeate this place, so that now a spirit of grace and compassion flows over this "river" for the sake of the families who live there.


Katney said...

Wonderful take, Craver. I was limited becuse I did not have my archives, but would have looked through my pictures of India to find the ladies doing their laundry in the river. Can't wait to see what the others do. I hope you decide to extend beyond your promised three weeks.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Craver: An intersting take on the suject. I must admit the photo confused me at first.

SandyCarlson said...

You show us an amazing, complex world that is splendid even when it hurts. Thanks, friend.

Lew said...

You might say a river of compassion also flowed there! The strength of those left behind in society and that of those who choose to help is amazing!

lime said...

thank you for taking such a different angle and sharing this story. it reminds us to be grateful for our abundant blessings and think about what we can do to alleviate suffering for others.