Yesterday we spent the day in Mexico. We crossed over in Tijuana and followed the coast down to Ensenada. Leaving this quaint little town we crossed diagonally to Tecate and zig-zagged through the hills back to Shuttle Island in the safety of San Diego’s harbor.
Mexico was cool. But poverty there grabs you by the throat and just chokes you. It’s mind boggling. But also different. In San Diego you walk right by people lying on the ground on the sidewalk between benches.
Booby gave his hoody to one man here, and put a $5 bill in the pocket. The man was run down. Had given up on life for reasons we’ll never know. When he told Booby he didn’t need the sweatshirt, he told him to go through the pockets before throwing it out. He felt like a schmuck for giving so little. You think when you give you’ll feel better about yourself. But you won’t. You’ll leave with a sick feeling in your stomach. You hope to make a stranger smile but he doesn’t. He reminds you that your old used up sweatshirt is meaningless.
In Mexico people are even more put out, but you don’t see their depression. Maybe because they’re not depressed. Maybe it’s because they grew up this way and never really knew loss. I don’t know.
Years ago we organized this guignolée in our office. A guignolée is a Christmas tradition where you go door to door singing carols for charity donations. My friend and I then drove to the local mission to deliver our “prized donation”. It was $200 and boxes of groceries. We totally expected the red carpet and oodles of gushing rewards.
What we got instead was dirty regards from the shelter’s residents, and a prompt “put that stuff down there and get out of the way we have a lot of work to do” from the shelter’s volunteers.
I wanted to run out crying. Booby felt the same way with the man on the sidewalk.
Do you know where you can give and won’t feel a knot in your stomach? project Believe.