I turned and walked away. It has bothered me ever since. I have so much while others have nothing.
I lived with a poor family in Saltillo Mexico which is south of Monterrey Mexico. It was 1975 and I was going to a language school where I was required to have language skills in a second language, and computer programing skills in order to get my PHD. My brother gave me a 1965 Rambler which was burning oil. I burned 54 quarts of oil going from Birmingham to Saltillo through Laredo which was quite the tough town as every night there was gunfire at the dump of a motel I stayed waiting for my birth certificate which I forgot. The car was so wasted it could not start off the battery, and I had to park it on hills so in the morning I could jump in and pop the clutch. I was as strong as a bull and pushing it each morning was easy, but showering off the oil which was blowing into the passenger compartment was another matter.
Well, a great many Americans were going to Mexico to enter medical school because the babyboomer bubble had too many applicants for American medical school and smart folks were forced to go to other nations to get their medical degree, where once they had the same they could become an American Doctor. I had two roommates who were medical students. One was a black Ghana child of the health minister of Ghana. He went to NY and became a taxi driver and loved what he did, until a minister of his country was at the United Nations and found out he was driving a cab. They insisted that he immediately enroll in medical school, and the only one he could get in was Saltillo. The other roommate was a Peruvian who was born in Peru, and at about 10 he moved to NYC, and he too was in medical school, but because he spoke spanish, it was much easier for him going to a Mexican medical school.
The poverty on the streets of Mexico was quite hard on children. They would often swarm people asking for money. I always gave something because the peso had just devalued and people were suffering horribly and I was getting about double the pesos for the dollar in just the last ten months. Well my Peruvian roommate stopped me one day after giving kids change, and said "you feel pretty good about helping those children" I replied that I had plenty of Pesos and if I could help, I felt good about it. He said very bluntly.....you are not helping them......you are hurting them as you create an expectation that begging is the way to climb out of poverty. I was that kid on the streets of Peru, and it was not until my family quit begging and began working that good things happened to our family."
I was piszed because he was judging me, and almost making me out as the ugly yankee. He was right. I was not helping those kids. I was making them more dependent. I went from 210lbs to 170 lbs in six months eating what that poor family was eating. Finally realizing I was fading away, I found a restaurant and once a day I began eating soup, some meat, and bread. There was not one member of that family who had an ounce of fat and they had this wonderful attitude about life and were absorbed by their catholic faith. I learned that I was a soft and entitled American who took things for granted. When my then girlfriend saw me in St. Louis she did not recognize me because I had lost so much weight and grown a mustache. That Christmas was special for me after returning from America. I could go into any gas station restroom and think I was in the ritz, and a quarter pounder with cheese was like a steak. We have no idea of the suffering in this world or how privileged we are.
I enjoy Hallmark's reality and experience, because those who have seen real poverty and deprivation understand what others do not know. So may we all celebrate this Christmas with the knowledge that we all are very fortunate.