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Oh, the Places I WON’T Go… (The Serious Version)

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Daily Prompt: No, Thanks.

Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where, and why not?

As I stated in yesterday’s post, “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” I can find beauty in just about any location.  However, when I do, it is finding the beauty of the LOCATION.   The buildings.  The landscape.  The flora.  Despite crumbling buildings, I can find a small detail that I find fascinating.

The same does not stay true, however, when faced with the plight of the people.

I am a very emotional person.  I FEEL so much.  When I see people who are hurting – physically or emotionally – I feel it as well.  It can move me to tears.  My heart hurts for them, and for the frustration I feel that there is nothing I can do.  Particularly for the children.  So, being faced with the people of abject poverty is a challenge for me.

Call it a first-world problem.  Call it overly empathetic.  Who knows.

For our honeymoon, The Monkey Daddy (my ex) and I drove from Atlanta to Las Vegas and back.  A wonderful two-week journey.  We had the opportunity to see much of the country – we went in an out of 17 states, even going out of our way to just pop in to the state to say we had been there (Florida and California).  One of our overnight stops was in El Paso, Texas.  We figured that since we were right there, we should cross over the border into Juárez, Mexico.  You know, see the sights, shop a little.  Yes, we were informed it is one hell of a dangerous city, but we wouldn’t stay long.  An hour.  Tops.   Afterall, we were so close and we could then add another location to our list!  So, we parked the trusty Jeep Cherokee (after being told it was best to NOT take it over the border) and walked across the bridge into Mexico.  El Paso is like any other mid-sized American city with its own urban poverty.  But, walking over the Rio Grande into Juárez was literally like walking from our first-world comforts into third world.  Not twenty yards down the road, we were approached by the first begging child.  A gorgeous little girl, about 5 years-old.  Huge black eyes, peering up at me.  Locking with mine.  Beseeching me.  I wanted to gather her up and take her home with me.  I gave her the change in my pocket and with a little “Gracias,” she scampered back to her mother who was seated on the ground in a doorway.  And we continued walking.  A block away, another child.  A boy.  Again, I wanted to take him away from that life and bring him into mine.  This time, it was my ex’s pockets that were emptied its change.  After he ran off, I took a good look around us.  Not just at the LOCATION, but at the people.  It was then that I realized I could go no further.  No little authentic Mexican tchotchke  from the old Mercado Juárez was worth the heartbreak I was feeling for the children I saw around me.  So, we turned around and walked back to the border.  Of course, we were approached again – and by the same little girl from before.  This time, I gave her some bills – and prayed that her mother was going to use it for food.

I have never forgotten that feeling.  And I never will.  It taught me my own limitations.  And it exposed me to my own first-world guilt.  Not that I am rich – I mean, I am a TEACHER after all.  But I knew that as little as I had, it was still so much more than what these children had.  And so much more than what any child in a like situation may have.   I can’t rescue all of the children of the world.  As much as I would love to try.


About Susan D.

Single mother of three. Teacher. Amateur Jewelry Designer. Singer. Hack writer. Trying to keep sane - as well as I can.

10 responses »

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  4. When I read your post it struck a chord with me. My wife is from Ecuador and we have travelled there half a dozen times in the sixteen years we have been together. When I went there the first time I felt as you did, horrified at the plight of the poor. My Mother-In-Law runs an orphanage and free children’s hospital in Ecuador and she showed me around.

    At the time I was working in a children’s home in the UK and was struck by the amount of good done there on relatively meagre resources compared with the huge sums lavished on a small number where I worked. I will never forget that place and nor do I want to, even though it pains me to recall the poverty, I am also filled with optimism at the good work done by so many people without thought for personal gain in the service of others.

    • Thank you for sharing!

      I teach in a high poverty school. In fact, both of the schools where I have taught have been high poverty – one rural, one suburban. I have students whose families routinely go without a utitlity or two. I have brought food to their houses, because the cupboards were bare. But, even with that, it is nothing compared with my brief encounter in Mexico. It also brought me face-to-face with the life the families I teach LEFT – and the life those lovely students of mine could be living.

  5. I start to weep in empathy when I hear or read of experiences such as these. In the 90’s our church participated in several mission trips to Honduras, following Hurricane Hugo. I had been sponsoring a little girl there & was blessed to meet her on the trip I joined. We were building a “village” above Tegucigalpa, for the people who lost theirs in the storm, & traveling to the interior to see how the poor lived there. Precious children! No sanitation, blindness, distended tummies, and boundless generosity! They wanted to give to us! I had never seen poverty like this & I felt utterly humbled. This still sticks in my mind & soul, as I cry again.

    • I remember those mission trips. At the time, I wished I had been able to go. In retrospect, I am somewhat glad I didn’t. I am not sure my soul would have survived.

  6. Pingback: The Twilight Zone | Happy Monkey Land and Other Musings on Life

  7. Susan
    Thanks for sharing !

  8. Pingback: Daily Prompt, No Thanks | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

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