During our lives we learn many different definitions of poverty. In elementary school, we learn poverty is not having money and living in a cardboard box. In middle and High School, we learn that poverty is having an EBT card and shopping at Payless (more so from the opinions of friends than teachers). When we get a little older we hear many statistics about poverty, like 2.5 billion people live on $2 a day, whereas 1.5 billion people live on only a dollar. However, I and 17 likeminded individuals got to SEE true poverty, an experience many will never have.
Stepping out of the bus into the local dump was not that hardest part of the day. The strong smell, the flies, the vultures were easy to get over after a while. What really struck me and most of the people on the trip were the little kids, happily running up to say hi to us. The kids smiling and trying to touch our hair. The kids eager to see what Las Hormigutas, a local organization the teaches children that cannot afford to come to school, had to bring today. The eagerness, the fragility, the happiness in the eyes of children surrounded by piles of garbage will forever be etched into my mind. I don’t like to cry in front of people, but holding back my tears today was one of the hardest things I had to do. I wanted to be strong for the people I was leading. I wanted to be strong for my leaders who were being strong. I wanted to be strong for myself. But most of all, I didn’t want to show pity to children who were far from asking for it.
These kids weren’t looking for someone to cry over them, they were looking for someone to play with them. They weren’t looking for pity, they were looking for education. My dad has always taught me to give, no matter how much you don’t have. Today I learned that even though it may seem like those children needed a lot more attention and care (which they do), it’s not the only thing you can give. Handing someone a $1 on the side of the street may make you feel good about yourself for a second, but did you really make an impact in that person’s life?
We all as human beings deserve proper housing and food. We all deserve proper education and an opportunity to a self sustaining job. However, we also deserve to be treating like human beings. Giving someone a dollar should not make you feel better, it should make you critical. It is our duty as human beings to help one another, not to clear our conscience. It’s very easy to reach into your pocket and give, but it’s a hard thing to reach into your heart and leave a piece of you with another human being.
Today I was able to see the hearts and souls of people on poverty, but not people who were poor. Hopefully they were able to see me, as me…