I remember seeing this picture for the first time right before our students got together for their meeting. It’s a Pulitzer Prize winning photo, taken by Kevin Carter in the Sudan in 1993. This starving toddler, a little boy was trying to reach a feeding center when a hooded vulture landed nearby. Carter took the picture because he thought it captured why he was in the Sudan. It was his job to photograph the horrors and inequities. He sold this photo to the New York Times and it first appeared in their March 26 edition in 1993. In 1994 he won a Pulitzer Prize for the photo.
Carter is reported to have waited 20 minutes for the vulture to leave and when it didn’t Carter chased it away and left the scene. Two other reporters, Jose’ Luis and Luis Davilla, reported that they took very similar photos in the area…it was near a feeding center and the vultures came from a manure waste pit.
The rest of the story was the firestorm that ensued from public reaction. How do you leave a toddler in that position? How do you take a picture and walk away without doing anything about the situation? Why did’nt you pick up the child and carry him to the feeding center after you scarred the vulture away?…so,
On July 27, 1994 just months after winning the Pulitzer Prize Kevin Carter drove to a place he used to play as a child and took his own life by taping one end of a hose to his pickup truck’s exhaust pipe and running the other end into the driver’s window. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the age of….33…His note read….
“I am depressed…without phone….money for rent….money for child support….money for debts….money!!!! I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain…of starving, wounded children…”
I thought of Kevin Carter’s pain as he looked back on what he should of could of done..and I realized how many times I’ve passed by on the other side like the priest and levite in the story of the good Samaritan. How every single one of us have chased the vulture away because it bothered us…but then realized, picking up the child involves too much time…too much of my involvement. I think before any of us choose to condemn or throw rocks at Kevin Carter we’d better darn well examine our own hearts.
I remember a woman’s group getting a bunch of stuff ready for Africa…medical supplies and food…watching them pack each item carefully and beginning to feel good about what they were doing…and I’m not saying they shouldn’t…but I asked one or two of them what they were doing for the Hispanic kids at the school or at River City downtown….and they said, “Nothing right now.” And I said, “It’s easy to help those we can have a long distant relationship with…harder for those who can know us in our own hometown.”
It is my hope…it is my prayer, that we won’t just scare away vultures and we won’t be continually haunted by the pictures of guilt and pain…but that we will, as Jesus commanded “go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the world.” For us at Gardenside Christian Church…here’s a loose paraphrase…”Go serve at JLA and Cardinal Valley, in Kentucky, in the Ghetto and Slums and people of Color, and then head to Africa.”
Love you all…(Thinking of Photographs)