Poverty is complicated. People are complicated. These terms are messy and impossible to put in a box. I realize that by merely attempting to describe these words as “complicated” I am violating my previous statement.
I really want to write paint a picture of simplicity regarding the plight of the kids I’ve been hanging out with. I want to believe that they are ideal kids, perfect in manners, behavior, and very mature. If all of these factors held true then I would, every day, describe the time the kids spent laughing and enjoying themselves at lunch.
In light of these unfair expectations I think it’s important to recognize that these kids are just that – kids. In addition, they live incredibly tough lives and are being forced to handle situations, and the ages of 11 and 13, that none of us ever wants to face.
Today was tough. Don’t get me wrong, the kids and I still had a great time, but it went a little more complicated and deeper today. Our friend Nefret joined us and she was awesome with the kids. She also speaks some Spanish which was very helpful.
Usually they are upbeat, smiling, and happy when we eat. This alone is impressive, considering they are merely getting a short break from washing windshields and begging for money. Today, though, they all took turns being upset. While we were trying to order Kevin sat down in the corner, looking quite downtrodden. Nefret and I convinced him to get up, but the episode set the tone for the day. Later, Ninoska refused to eat; claiming that she ate a big breakfast and would rather draw. We didn’t really know how to handle this situation besides encouraging her to eat. After that Sonia was upset and Nefret and I couldn’t figure out the exact reason.
My best guess is that the kids might be getting a hard time from either family or friends since they get treated to lunch every day. Maybe this is untrue, but it’s the best I can come up with. If this is true, no wonder these kids are having trouble dealing with the situation. No wonder they weren’t completely overjoyed to be there with us. I wouldn’t be either if I knew I was going to be pressured afterwards. Again, this is just my conjecture so who knows what the real reasons are.
Despite these incidents we still had a great time. As usual we spent a solid hour after we finished eating drawing and learning a few new English words. Nefret brought along a bunch of clothes so this morning we went through and picked out outfits for each of the kids. They seemed really excited about them. All of them held the clothes to their noses and smelled them, obviously quite pleased that they were new.
During lunch Sonia showed us some cuts she had gotten after falling in the street. One in particular looked like it might be infected so after we said goodbye to the kids Nefret and I walked to the grocery store to buy some Neosporin.
Usually when I arrive to meet the kids they see me and come running before I see them. Because of this I’ve never seen the kids actually working. Since they weren’t expecting us to return with the Neosporin, however, we saw Sonia washing a car’s windshield and begging for some money. It was heartbreaking. Wasn’t this the girl who draws goofy pictures and laughs at my terrible Spanish? Although I knew what the kids do when they’re not with me I still had a hard time actually seeing them working. We were able to give her the medicine. Hopefully she uses it throughout the weekend.
Nefret and I then started walking to a coffee shop about 15 mins away when our good friend and neighbor Ramon pulled up on the side of the rode next to us and offered us a ride. Ramon is a very successful businessman and drives a Benz. He had to turn around to take us to the coffee shop, and in doing so we passed the kids working on the other side of the street.
The emotions I felt in that moment – driving by my friends the street kids in a Benz – capture the range and depth of thoughts and feelings I have here in
Often I struggle with how I should feel. How can rich people live with themselves when they see the immense poverty around them? This question gets uncomfortably convicting when I really think about it, since I have to label myself as a “rich person.”
With great frequency I ask general “why” questions like this only to find myself responsible for answering them.