After visiting the Dominican Republic, my thoughts are changed on how I view being rich and being poor.
A motorcycle zoomed by, carrying a mother and three children. One child sat up front, followed by the driver. Two more children were seated next, with the mother bringing up the rear. Aghast, my mouth hung open as I stared through the taxi window.
Being in a Third World country was even more eye-opening that I had anticipated. A starving woman trudged down the broken sidewalk, an empty pottery bowl slipping from her weakened grasp. Children’s skin stretched across their protruding ribs and bloated stomachs as they played soccer in the streets barefoot.
Church-goers welcomed me in their homes, feeding me lunch although in order to do so, they had to go out of their way and buy the food I ate. They sent me back to the hotel with a bag stuffed full of mangos, hugs, and pictures to remember them by.
As horrible and as awkward as I felt, eating their foods, part of me also realized that this was a good experience. Maybe because I had seen one week’s worth of people with deprived living, I could appreciate what I had.
Before this trip, I considered myself poor. My thoughts flashed back to my home in the United States. We had a car, an apartment, my husband had just finished up his Master’s degree. Student loan debts were piling high. But we had a small pup with floppy ears and a flowy tail greeted us daily with licks and cuddles. Cell phones, computers, iPads, internet, a dishwasher. I was in college, trying to pay tuition and rent at the same time, while working a part-time job and trying to maintain good grades.
But most of the natives in this country didn’t finish a high school diploma, much less a college degree. Few children waited for buses, dressed in red and blue school uniforms. But only a handful, and I saw none over the age of ten.
So, am I poor? Perhaps it is a trick question. Do I have food to eat, a good education, and a chance to improve my quality of living? Yes. As far as money is concerned, I am not poor.
Do I play soccer in the streets when I know there’s no dinner? Definitely not. Do I invite people in my home cheerfully, when I have to go out of my way to feed them? No.
Perhaps I am poor. Perhaps I am poor in giving, poor in caring, poor in in selflessness. Perhaps the people in this Third World country are richer than I.
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