Visiting families is by far the most exciting and most educational (for me) part of my job. I am feel so privileged that these families allow me to come to their home, often intruding on their family time to chat with me about personal aspects of their lives. It allows me to see the realities they are confronting on a daily basis. Realities such as having their children work as well when they are not in school to bring home a few coins, or the reality of having to sleep only four hours a night because they need to take care of their homes and work, or the reality of their kids getting sick because the city is so dirty and there is so much dust, sitting water, and humidity where bacteria can fester.
And I am not sharing this because I think we should feel guilty. Not to say that guilt cannot be a productive emotion because it can, but when we get stuck in that guilt, live in that guilt and only respond with “I have to eat all the food on my plate because there are starving children in Bolivia,” well, that helps us finish our food but where does that leave us? Us full feeling guilty and those kids still hungry. It’s important to continually challenging ourselves to keep making sustainable changes towards peace and justice.
I visited one of my favorite (shhh…I know I should not have favorites) kid’s mom a couple of weeks ago and she was so open and hospitable. Something that I always appreciate because it’s more than I should ever ask for. She is 19 and is a single mom of a beautiful, intelligent 2 year old. And after our visit, she walked me to take a micro even though I said that it wasn’t necessary but she insisted I would get lost. On the way out her nephew (3 years old) who also goes to the guarderia wanted to come with me and when I said I would see him on Monday at the guarderia, he starting crying. So his aunt said he could come with us to the micro stop and that calmed him down and we walked down that dusty road together, him clutching my hand. On the way there, she said to me…
“We are all going to miss you when you leave. Especially the kids.”
“You think? Maybe the kids won’t even remember me.”
“Oh no, they will definitely remember you. I remember going to church when I was a little girl and meeting all kinds of foreigners that would come to help us. I can still remember each of their faces til this day”
“Yea, but they never did come back. I wonder why….maybe they didn’t like it here or maybe they just don’t have time to visit us.”
That conversation has been on my mind ever since. I have been reflecting and going over her words repeatedly for a number of reasons. The biggest reason being that these volunteers came to “help them” and that she would always remember them but never see them again. I wonder if they remember her. And another being that I want the kids to remember me, but not as a foreigner who used them to get a rewarding experience, but as one who felt absolutely privileged to walk alongside them.
So what does it mean for us to go to other countries and visit? How can we make sustainable changes in our lives that allow us to be in solidarity with our global brothers and sisters? What can we do so that they never feel abandoned as this mom…