When given the opportunity, I will usually choose the road less traveled. This was the case when I had the chance to travel to Bogota, Colombia. Almost instantaneously I fell in love with this city with its amazing climate and friendly and loving people. When I have my choice, I choose to stay in the less touristy areas and to experience real life wherever I travel. My fair skin and light eyes had me sticking out immediately in any crowd, but I never had a problem and when I did, people were always willing to help me out. I would visit the neighborhood grocery store, Carulla, and without fail everyday there would be someone outside asking for spare change. Feeling like I had so much more than they did, I would sometimes give a few pesos, but like everyone else, I wouldn’t think twice about it after I had walked away.
But one day it was different. In front of the store sat a young woman with her young daughter begging for change. She looked incredibly sad and unfortunately, both she and her daughter looked dirty, tired, and hungry. As I walked past her, I noticed she had a coat draped over her leg. When people walked by, she would lift up the coat so they could see under it. Her malformed leg would get a reaction and hopefully some money in her cup. This left such an impact on me that leaving money was not going to be enough for me. I was angry that she had to use her disability to take care of herself and her daughter and angry that most people walked by and didn’t notice her at all. My son, only 10 at the time, and I went in the store and immediately started shopping for food for the woman and her daughter and the more I put in my basket, the less it felt like it would help, but I kept shopping. We paid for the groceries and headed outside to give it to the woman. When we gave it to her, she seemed embarrassed to take it, especially in front of her daughter. As we walked away, I wrestled with how this woman made me feel while my son was beaming from his act of kindness. As glad as he was, buying her food wasn’t going to get her off that sidewalk and although I had hoped to be proven wrong, we saw her many times in that same spot after that.
The easiest thing to do that day would have been to keep walking past the woman or to give her money, but that wouldn’t have felt like enough. That day was important to me because I always tell my son to do at least one good thing a day for someone else. He could see that day that we were, in fact, doing something good for someone, but it might not be enough. Sometimes we want to see the end result of our actions all wrapped up with a bow and a happy ending, but the reality of it is that those that need our help the most might not live that kind of a life. It’s easy for people to get caught up in the feel good feeling associated with doing an act of kindness, but shouldn’t we remember that it is far less about us and more about the act itself? In the end, as human beings we simply want to connect with others. Traveling the world, meeting new people, and learning about other cultures has helped me feel more like a citizen of the world than anything else. As a citizen it is my responsibility to watch out for my fellow man, woman, and child. Doing any less than that means I’m not doing enough.