My grandfather says we’re Americans, that we have to worry about ourselves and no one else. I wonder if that comes from a generation that didn’t have much or if it’s because he’s older and needs to be careful with his health and general well being.
Either way, I have to believe that, as humans, we’re capable of positive change. I have to believe that the next thirty years of my life won’t be filled with debt and a recession that pounds my do-what-you-love-most attitude to the ground.
I can’t sit around a kitchen table and believe that we are just Americans. That we should worry only about being Americans and feeding our economy and pushing onwards and upwards until we’re knee high in domestic spending.
I have to believe in third world countries and the power of a single pair of shoes or bowl of rice or pound of flour because I can see clearly in my head the world that would ensue if people like me didn’t. If people like me gave up.
Bodies would be lined up like dead soldiers on the side of the road, flies swarming over them in the dry heat. Distended stomachs would ache. Bellies would never feel full and beds would never be warm enough to keep out the night’s breeze passing through the hole in the wall that serves as a window.
Heartbeats would slow and life-giving hands would hold cold hands by the bedside. Mothers would cry that they loved their children too much yet they couldn’t save them. They could never be enough. Do enough. Love enough.
I don’t need to see it to know. Stringing together small gifts and sending them away to the depths of poverty is not going to end it all. Tomorrow will begin anew for children who will never know the feeling of fullness. Tomorrow will bring emotional battles for the parents who just want more for their children.
Don’t all parents want more?
Aren’t we all supposed to be each others’ parents?
Shouldn’t I look out for those with less, regardless of where they are or what they need?
I wonder if we shipped off, those of us who are too self-aware for our own good. Left them stranded in the middle of an African village for a few months.
Would their skin wrinkle and brown beneath the hot sun in the middle of the afternoon? Would they learn the skills necessary to stay alive? Or would it be other lessons?
Like the feel of sweaty palms clasped together in the middle of the night when disease kicks in and the medicine won’t help. Or the hole in their stomach when the food supply runs short. Or the sense of community that builds up when no one has much but everyone still finds a way to have enough.
Would we learn to love more and give more and be more, all the while needing less?
Or would the sound of a slowed heartbeat scare us into submission, until we tell ourselves on sleepless nights in air conditioned rooms that we can never be enough? That we have our own problems. That the government is messed up and there is nothing we can do.
Let me tell you something: there is always, always something we can do. We just so often don’t like the answer.
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