something borrowed and blue

Mad has been doing such a wonderful job posting about social issues all week long. I read her eloquent posts, filled with facts and links and all I can see are faces. Little faces. I see stories in the her words of hunger and of abuse.

I was travelling through Mexico a few years ago. I was sitting on the steps of a church is some little town when a boy came up to me and sat down. He spoke a little english, and I spoke a little spanish, and we spent some time together, quietly sitting. After a while I mentioned that I needed to get going, that I was hungry. When I asked if he was hungry too, he said yes. We shared a meal and parted ways.

The next day I opened the door to my little hotel room and he was sleeping on a chair in the courtyard out front. Ernesto, I said. Que tal? He said he was waiting for me. I asked if he was hungry. Si. We had breakfast.
Ernesto and I hung out for several days. He never asked me for money. Never asked for anything, just seemed to want to follow me around. He'd sit on the beach while I sat and read. He waited outside places I visited. He'd step back in line with me when I'd come out.

I didn't mind the company - I was alone for a good deal of the time and was sorting some things out, and he was easy to be with.

When it was time for me to move on I bought him one last meal and I talked about leaving, and about our time together. I asked him why he spent so much time with me. And if he needed money, I would give some to him.

No, he said. I just like being with you. You are pretty, and you gave me food. We hugged goodbye, and for a moment, we both were silent. Ernesto was nine years old when I met him. I can still picture him, standing at the bus stop waving as the bus pulled away.

When I was in Cambodia earlier this year, there were hundreds of hungry children. Many of them begging, pleading, unrelenting in their pursuit. They knew tourists have money, that we leave more on our plates than they eat all day. They pursued us well. And I let them. It was heartbreaking. I knew they had a job to do for their families, that they were part of a system. Part of a means of survival. They were so young. Stomachs distended. Thin. Filthy. Heartbreaking.

Children not much older than M were up late at night, begging. We'd buy them food and milk and they'd take it and still press for money. Money needed to bring home. We gave that too, not liking the way it made us feel but knowing that no matter what the reason or angle, they needed it so much more than we did. It was relentless. And even though Mad posted about human trafficking today, I still can't bring myself to write about the child brothels and underage prostitution we happened upon. I am sorry, but I just can't. Maybe at some point I'll find words to do those little girls justice, but I don't have the vocabulary yet.

Luckily, we happened to stay at this guest house and learned about this place. We felt it was a way to contribute to a concerted effort being made in one small town. Good people run this place, and do good things.

It is unspeakable, the horrors of poverty. The desperation caused by hunger. The way a child looks at you when they need to beg from you in order to eat. The dimness behind what should be bright eyes. The littlest faces.

The wedding. The wedding. It is only 3 days away. You still have till Saturday to get us your gift. And we can't wait to see all of you there on Sunday. I plan on blowing a hundred kisses in all directions of the earth.