I’ve decided to begin my story on the side of the road somewhere in Central America. A few little children, scruffy and small from malnourishment and maladies that Americans don’t have the guts to even think of, stopping unregulated traffic to sell blown-out tires or seedy-looking fruits.
I don’t really know why I was there: it was mid-February and I was missing 4 days of school work, not to mention the trip itself took up $2000 that we now don’t have. We could have spent that on anything, really: much-needed car repairs, community college tuition for my brother, or the remodeling going on back in the States. Honestly, I worry about our family’s expenses more than everyone realizes: I hardly go out anymore, I don’t ask for much for the holidays or my birthday, and I wear out my clothes and sneakers until they’re threadbare; all in the name of savings.
So, really, what was I doing there? I can’t save the world; and because of this, I’m spending two THOUSAND dollars, not even maximizing my gains over losses, and, at the risk of sounding like Gibbs from NCIS, going against every rule I have in place. The rich white gringo sitting in the bus with the word “Turismo” clearly painted on the side doesn’t want your shoddy tires or your back alley bananas, nor does she or the other 13 people sitting in the bus with her want to help you out, buy you some food, hear your life story, rally the world to your cause, or even give you the time of day in the slightest.
Yet the rich white gringo sitting in the bus will not stay in the bus. Nor will the 13 other people in the bus stay in the bus. We will disembark from our large white gringo bus, and bring our large bags of gringo supplies with us, and at the end of the week, we will leave their reality of uncertainty and devastating poverty and come back to our own reality of certainty and comfort.
And we will not forget. We will not forget the child who tugs on our clothes and simply states “money”. We will not forget the children that pile their 4 tires and try to sell them to travelers on the highway. We will not forget those stopping cars after tolls and showing us their produce, looking for someone who pities them or desperate enough to buy their questionable at best produce. We will not forget the 16-year-old who has only completed the 6th grade, because his family cannot afford to pay eighty-five dollars to send him to school each year: because the family needs to choose, each year, whether to give up eating or education. We will not forget the families that have to live in sticks and a tarp.
The question is, will you forget? Will you come home, unpack your gringo supplies, and throw your dirty clothes and memories in the wash, leaving them free of any evidence of your trip? Or will you, at the very least, support the missionaries that put their blood, sweat, tears, time, and bodies on the line for others? This is a call to arms: not for or against war, but against injustice. Please, all of you, do not forget. Advocate, help, lead: your contribution, however small or large, could be the difference in someone’s life. Nobody is saying that you must go: I am saying that it is their and your best interest to do.