Truth and Reconciliation

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 I have been doing volunteer work for the majority of my mature life. But never before, have I felt my emotions shift from sorrow, remorse, pity, and frustration… to outright fury. I walked hand in hand with an eleven-year-old boy today. He works seven hours a day. He works six days a week. He works in a garbage dump, fumbling through it to find plastic bottles. He makes, if he is lucky, a dollar fifty a day. He has two brothers, and two dead parents. He is the sole provider for his two younger siblings, and the worst part is… he seems to assume that his role is justified, when it is so obviously not. Our world has forced him to think this way, forced him to push out his desire to learn and play, and forced him to accept the responsibility of being the breadwinner… at the age of eleven. He said he chose me out of our group because I looked strong, and if him and I could pick up the bottles fast enough, he might have time to rest before he wakes up, and repeats the next morning.I went to the dump for about two hours, and by the end of it, I was sweaty, tired, and frustrated. He will probably do it every day of his life. Imagine that, waking up every morning… no soccer practice, no basketball tournament, no dance lesson, no sleepovers, no school, no holidays… just walking the hour and a half to a garbage dump, and picking up other people’s trash. The stench of it is vomit inducing, and the sorrow in the eyes of the people who work there makes me cringe every time I make eye contact. It is impossible for us to reconcile that sort of life no matter how hard we try. Complete empathy is impossible, because of the way we were raised, and the opportunities we were provided with. Nevertheless, try. Try to imagine that life, every second, of every hour, of every day. Waking up, telling your little brothers that your off to the dump, and then walking by yourself, picking bottles, getting your dollar fifty for a long day’s labor, and then returning home in an attempt to find food for your two awaiting siblings… the only family you have left.     This boy, at the age of eleven, lives this life. Every single day he gets up, walks to the dump, and picks trash. He does not even understand that there is more to the world then what.If I were to ask people back home what their aspirations are, some common answers might be: ‘I want to become a doctor. I want to see China. I want to write a book. I want to become an actor.’ People back home do not even understand that because of where we are born, we are given the opportunity to comprehend those dreams. I asked this boy what his dream was… it was to have his own bed. Literally; that was his dream. He desired a place to sleep, so he could have a good nights rest for the next days work. Our aspirations will always begin with ‘I want,’ whereas his will always begin with ‘I need.’ The contrast between the two is astronomical in its simplicity, yet our world chooses to ignore it. Their lives are so restrained by the world’s failings that they are not able to expand, hope, and flourish we are.So commonly a misconception of the wealthy is that the impoverished are lazy, and have forced themselves into that sort of life. But that is not the case.  Whereas at home there are many things we ‘half-ass,’ in places like this they are not even allowed to. Their circumstances stifle their ability to enjoy life. They are forced to apply themselves as hard as they can, with what is given to them. They are born into this world without consultation, as we are; yet we won the lottery of life. We have been blessed and born into a nation that provides us with our basic needs. We spend almost all of our time pursuing our materialistic, or social status-based desires, whereas these people spend all of their time pursuing the means to have food at night. This child, which I walked hand-in-hand through the dump with; has done nothing wrong. He has not failed in any way to deserve the life he has been forced to live. We have failed him.The world has failed these people; we have overlooked the fact that they are identical to us in terms of value. We assume subconsciously that our lives have more significance because we have more ‘stuff’ then they do. But they love, smile, cry, hate, and feel the same way we do. They are human beings.     It was in this truth, and in the reconciliation of this fact, that I became angry. What right do we have to push them further into the dirt, and lift ourselves higher towards the clouds? What right do we have to turn a cold shoulder to them when they cry out for help? What right do we have to live fully, when they are surviving emptily?If we are reborn into new lives upon our deaths, I pray for most of our sake that we win the lottery of life once again. Because if we don’t, then maybe… just maybe, we might have to live as they do, and we might have to reconcile how they feel. A nightmare for us to imagine, a reality that they are forced to live.~ Mason

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: July 24th, 2010