Thursday, May 31, 2007
Last weekend Colby, Jen, and I met up with Gina and 3 other American girls to spend a day at the city dump. We were joining forces with a local church whose youth have spent every Saturday over the past few years attempting to provide for those living within the limits of the dump the one thing they were severely lacking: a good meal. We met up with them at their church and got to see where the meals were prepared. After loading up the food we headed out to the dump. I happened to be one of the ones riding in the back of the truck and after about 30 minutes of driving I began to smell a stench that could only mean one thing…we were vastly approaching our destination. The smell coupled with the fact that the sky was full of vultures did little to prepare us for what lay just ahead of us. We rounded the corner and I got my first glimpse of what it truly meant to be in need. Since my arrival here I have witnessed thing after thing that has left me shocked and amazed…saddened and sickened. However, nothing I have witnessed so far could have readied me for the short time I would spend in service that day. While I knelt in the back of the truck over a huge plastic tub full of noodles dishing out plate after plate I couldn’t keep my gaze off of those in line. They pushed and crowded, jostled and fought their way to the front of a line that was more important than any line I’ve ever stood in. As I gazed into the eyes of women, men, and yes the worst: children I couldn’t stop the tears that found their way to the corners of my eyes. Then as my spoon began to scrap bottom I was faced with the sad reality that the food was going to run out before the line did. It was going to be my job to look back into those starving faces and admit defeat. It was up to me to drop my spoon back into the tub, slide the lid back on, and call it a day. My head kept trying to comfort my heart with the fact that we had served hundreds of plates but my heart accepted that fact for about the two seconds it took me to stand up and survey the madness surrounding me. Dump trucks were pulling in non-stop to dump the remains of what we “rich folk” had thrown out. The amount of trash that they contained was endless. As each truck came in you would see people swarm the dumping area in search for something they could use for a home, as clothes, or simply things they could eat to get them through yet another day. As they sat sorting the goods that had been left behind I couldn’t help but be reminded that I now live in a country that doesn’t flush their toilet paper but instead places it in the trash can to be disposed of later. I was also thought of all of the things that we place in the trash on a day to day basis: dirty diapers, spoiled food, feminine products, and so much more. Yet here I was in a place where 10’s of thousands of people depended on those bags of trash as a means of survival. Then suddenly I was hit full force by the guilt. Why was I the lucky one? Why was I the one to be born into a good family that could afford the luxuries of life? Why is it that I grew up thinking going hungry meant eating dinner later than 5? Here I was sporting a new pair of sandals while the people before me were walking around mismatched tennis shoes that someone discarded after the sole began to fall off of them. What is it about being American that makes us think we deserve better or that we have earned better. Simply because I was born American gives me advantages that children here will never know. There are city dumps in America…thousands of them. Yet none of them are used to provide “public housing” to thousands and thousands of people. I was once again humbled by the life that lay before me. A life that I had been ignorant of for years. As we prepared to leave I surveyed the scene one final time in an attempt to embed it so firmly in my mind that I would never be able to get it out. That it might always serve as a reminder of how truly lucky I am and how many out there need OUR help. It is a good thing for mental pictures because seconds later as I stood waiting for Gina to unlock my door a man ran up behind me and stole the camera I had in my hand. I had been taking pictures and had wrapped the strap around my wrist before placing the camera in the palm of my hand and pressing that against my hip. However, in a moment of sheer stupidity I had turned my back to look into the car to wait see when Gina got the car unlocked. Well as I stood there a man grabbed me from behind ripping my arm away from my body. Then in one fluid motion he latched onto the camera with one hand and while still holding my arm tore the camera from my arm. In fact he pulled so hard and had such a tight hold that he released the camera from the strap that held it to my arm and took off. It happened so fast that I wasn’t sure what was going on. Colby (who was standing with me) had little time to react other than to grab hold of me in fear that he may have tried to run off with me instead. In the seconds after we both stood staring at one another in disbelief. The only proof that I had that the event actually had taken place was the elastic band still connected to my wrist and the feel of that hand on my elbow. Getting into the car and retelling the events to Gina I was surprised to find that in place of the fear or anger that probably should have come with such a situation I only had compassion and sorrow for this young man that was so hungry had to steal to pay for a decent meal. (That is at least what I’m telling myself the money will go to after he sells it) That the hard life that he had been raised with had taught him little about values, morals, or right from wrong. How could I feel anger after I had stood at the doorstep of poverty with my expensive camera, my nice clean clothes, and my naïve attitude? I lost my camera but I learned one of the best lessons life had to offer me. However, that also means that until I raise money for a new one I will be unable to take and post pictures for you all like I have in the past. Bare with me and I promise to do my best to sneak them off of other peoples cameras so that you will still get to see the beautiful faces of my children from time to time. In the mean time remember that somewhere out there is a starving belly or a body in need of some clothes. Remember that you are blessed beyond belief and that those blessings are gifts from our Savior.