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.