Call it coincidence or simply fitting that blog action day, focusing on poverty, falls just on the heels of my return from Mexico City.
In Mexico, I met poverty face to face. I cannot express in words the impact that this trip had on me. I only know that I am different.
Upon my return, I wondered, “How do I go back to the way I was?” How do I worry about the typical middle class American issues – the election, high gas prices, whether I will get through the pile of contracts and policies that need review on my desk, whether I will get my kids into the right school, whether I will be able to retire, what will I have for dinner tonight, whether or not to buy a new tv? The answer is that I do not, in fact, I cannot go back to the way I was. I am changed. My perspective is different – my worldview has been broadened.
Despite this, I cannot live my life in guilt. Just after returning, I felt guilty for everything – for having a home, for having a toddler that “wasn’t hungry” for dinner and wasted food. I felt guilty for having an education, for being born – it seemed as if everything was luck of the draw – I was born in America, not in Mexico, thus I had the basic necessities (food, clean water), while others do not. And to make matters worse, work felt like torture. The job that I had taken pride in, and the career that I felt was centered on “making a difference” – working at a nonprofit hospital, impacting the lives of patients daily – it all seemed so irrelevant in the face of hunger, homelessness, abuse, and hopelessness.
Now, I am working through this. I am trying to find a way to continue to care, and to continue to make a difference, without losing my joy in the process. Feeling guilty and hating myself will not make the world a better place. I am trying to work through what I need to do to make a difference.
I also want to stress that I was not unaware of poverty prior to this trip. I’ve been on numerous mission trips in rural and urban areas. I’ve fed the homeless, repaired broken homes, and ministered to the sick. I’ve seen pain and suffering. I also read, I watch the news, and I am aware that there is heartache. However, something different happened to me in Mexico. I fed fruit and gave juice to a child that lived in a shopping cart. When I looked into that 2 year old’s eyes, I saw my children. When the child came to show me his toy and we tried to communicate, I saw a child that simply wanted to play. When I met the child’s parents, they, like me, were proud and did not want to accept help. However, in the mother I saw desperation when she asked if we had a diaper (the child was wearing a paper towel). There is something powerful in meeting poverty face to face – now poverty is not just a social issue, but it is a child – poverty is the people – a city full and overflowing with beautiful people that desperately reach for a glimmer of hope.
I have no answers, I only have pictures – this is my only way to share a glimpse of the poverty that I witnessed.