We All Live In The Same World; How Can It Be So Different?
This was written by my wife, Casey. It’s about a life changing experience she had while on a mission trip to El Salvador. I’m encouraging her to share her writing more, as she is a wonderful storyteller. I hope this inspires you as it has me. – Cole
When I was seventeen I went to El Salvador with my church youth group. I really didn’t go for any of the right reasons at all. I didn’t go down there because I had this huge urge to help people; I thought that would be an added bonus. The main reason I went down there was for me. I thought it would be nice to have a vacation…to go to another country…to hang out with a couple of my friends who were going down there with me, etc.
I grew up in a very sheltered community, household, etc., and I had never really encountered extreme malnutrition or poverty or anything like that. I was also at the time a very unemotional person…never cried, never got too sad, etc. I was never bothered too much by anything at all. All of these traits I had at the time changed quite a bit after I got back from there, though.
It’s funny how going somewhere and seeing people in the absolute worst of conditions can somehow make you a better person, yet those people never get the opportunity to become any better themselves unless you, the changed person, helps them. What a strange concept to wrap your head around.
So anyway, while we’re down in El Salvador we are going around and giving some of the children toys and snacks and clothing that we brought with us from America. Crap that we would throw away, like McDonald’s happy meal toys, animal crackers, those t-shirts with bright pink neon and green writing that say “L.A Gear” that have been in the bottom of our closets since 1993. It’s all crap to us…yet to them it’s the only gift they will get that day, that week, perhaps that year, maybe even in their lifetime.
TO ME— their country was beautiful. It looked like a resort, with palm trees and oceans with beautiful black sand. It was amazing.
TO THEM—perhaps even unbeknownst to them, their country is a prison. Somewhere and something that they can never and will never be able to escape. Somewhere they will be held captive until their death.
Isn’t it freaking crazy and sad how different perspectives can be depending on who you are and what you have?
On one of the first days down there we are traveling through the country on a bus and there are literally thousands of children walking on these dirt roads. There are shanties made out of tin and dirt pretty much all around. I assumed maybe some of the children lived in them, but certainly there were not enough houses to hold all the children that I saw. I couldn’t comprehend all of these children everywhere.
Evidently there were around 1 million children in El Salvador who were homeless, or at least that is the estimate we were given at the time. If you saw as many half-naked children randomly walking around as I did you would probably not doubt that estimate either. If you get out the map and actually look at the size of the country, you will see why that number is so devastating. The country is so small, yet the problems it has are innumerable.
We went to this park type place one of the days and I was just standing around while one of our interpreters with our group was speaking in Spanish to some of the local people, probably about Jesus, or who we were and why we were there; I’m not sure exactly. I was looking around and taking everything in and I saw so many children, truly beautiful children. Some were with their families, many were alone, but all of them, every single one of them was poverty stricken, malnourished, and alone in some way. Even the children who had parents there with them were still alone. It seemed as if there was no connection between them, no emotion, nothing.
So suddenly, as I was looking around and seeing this, I started crying. Not just a few tears shed over the sad state of these poor individuals, but I was literally bawling my eyes out (in a public park) to think that these children were going to grow up and continue to have no food, no clothes, probably no inkling of what love is, and no joy. It’s like they were people, but at the same time they were just empty vessels; they seemed so hardened from the short life that they had lived.
Then, as if that wasn’t hard enough for my feeble seventeen-year-old mind to try to process, I saw something crazier. So let me preface this.
Across the road from the place we stayed there was this lake that had been formed in the crater from a volcano. It was gorgeous. (See what I mean about what is heaven to us is still hell for them?) So, when my youth group would get some free time we would go swim or swing off of this trapeze type thing like they have in the circus and land in the lake, or jump off one of two platforms into the water, one 20 feet up and one 30 feet up. So, a few of us were all over there one afternoon swimming and having a gay old time, when we saw this little naked boy walking down the road towards the lake. And to understand this picture, you have to understand that there are not any more houses or any more building or anything within at least a mile from where we were. So here is this little bitty naked boy walking down this desolate road, alone. As he got closer we realized that he was going to climb up the steps to where we were, which sort of frightened us because we did not understand what he was doing. When he got closer, I realized that he was about as tall as most three-year-old children, but that he must be a little older than that. He had to be right? I mean he had just walked a mile by himself, on the road, naked, with no shoes. He had to be older than three, right? If he was older than three, he was definitely not any older than five years old. He was so incredibly tiny.
So here is this little bitty boy and he climbs up the steps to where we were, walked by us as if we didn’t exist, jumped off of the platform where we were all standing, swam around for a couple minutes, got out, and walked back to wherever it was that he came from.
So, for anyone who has an artistic bone in their body or an imagination at all, tell me how you could see something like that and not have it be the most powerful thing?
To this day it is one of the most incomprehensible things I have ever encountered.
Now let’s switch back to America. How many 3-5 year olds do you know who are not completely terrified to jump off of a 20-foot platform? How many 3-5 year olds do you know who would walk a mile by themselves and not be frightened for their life?
We all live in the same world, yet if it is the same, then how can it possibly be so different?
–Go do something helpful for someone less fortunate today.
-Pay it Forward.
-Be Thankful for what you have even if it doesn’t seem like much.
-Let your Family and Friends know you love them.
-Don’t ever forget those moving and powerful moments in life.