Why am I here? Existential Crisis, Part One

The people of Belize are incredibly warm and inviting, and sometimes too inviting. While lunching at a restaurant on the water in San Pedro, Nicole was almost forced to hold a random local lady’s baby. After we all cooed over it and said how cute it was, the woman asked, “would you like to keep her?” and then later, “do you want to give some money to me to help take her to the hospital? She has a chest cold.” This baby wasn’t coughing, but I’m not going to make any assumptions. We never saw the baby with this woman again even when we saw the woman a few more times. It makes me wonder, how does a person get to the point where she will use her baby to collect money? I do not know what to think about this. I have met so many people who just outright ask for money (they don’t bother with signs here) and what I’ve been told by people at home in the U.S. is that these people are lazy and have no right to do that. More than anything, it makes me uncomfortable. But should it?

 

Could I spend my coffee money on giving it away to someone who asks for money on the street? Yes, and I always feel guilty when I think about that. As Americans we always want to know, ‘where’s my money going?’ I know that’s why a lot of people won’t donate to charities. This is something I’m struggling with. I want to help these people, but in a bigger way than just giving them a couple bucks and then leaving. And I know a lot of others feel this way too. Then why aren’t we doing that?
Here is my view right now as I’m into my second week in Belize. I am teaching in a school that is not as fortunate as some schools in the United States. Although this is for my benefit, it is also for the benefit of the students and the teachers. Today one student asked, “What inspired you to be a teacher?” I said, “Because I wanted to do something with my life that didn’t revolve around making money.” He took that in and chewed on it for a few seconds, but didn’t say anything. He’s a senior who may or may not be going to college (I’ve no idea). What if what I said inspired him to be a teacher, one who wants to do it for something bigger than his own monetary gain? And what if he’s not just a teacher, but a transformative and great teacher?

 

As a teacher, you never know how far you reach: socially, economically, or emotionally. The most difficult aspect of this career is that you may never see the lives you change, and the gratifying part about it is rarely ever a paycheck. The payoff comes at miscalculated times when you don’t expect it. I haven’t experienced this yet, and may not for a while. But I’ve heard stories from other teachers. I can’t wait to have stories of my own to tell. So, I may not have given that lady two bucks to do God knows what with—But I may have helped out her children grandchildren with changing the face of education in some miniscule, priceless way. I may never know, but this helps me sleep a bit softer at night.

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2 comments

  1. 1. I can’t wait to hear your stories 🙂
    2. Talk to some of the locals in your network about the people who ask for money and ask their opinions about what to do: there are different situations everywhere but in some cases it’s best not to give cash–or unfortunately anything at all. I learned this when I was in Nantes. The vast majority of people asking for money on the streets were Roma and any money you gave them, I was told, would most likely not be theirs and go directly back to the person/network that forced them into exploitative begging (often through some form of human trafficking). Often, the baby, too, was probably not theirs and just given to them to solicit more pity (and euros) from people who saw them. Even in the US, people often caution against giving money as it might be used for something other than food and necessities (drugs are a common example). Do what you feel right doing but this summer I always tried to have some cereal bars/healthy snacks with me in case someone asked for money–you can always say you don’t carry cash and offer that instead. This doesn’t necessarily help 100% when, as you experienced, someone needed to go to the hospital, but like I said–do what you feel is right.
    Sorry that was like a novel, but I do hope it helps as you ponder your way through Existential Crisis, Part One! Miss you!

    1. gretchen—absolutely. we all talked about this too, and worried that the baby could be involved with human trafficking because the woman joked to nicole, “do you want to keep her?” it was just a bit too literal to be a joke. so yeah, i haven’t given anyone money yet because i just don’t feel comfortable being hassled for more either.

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