I never imagined how my life would change in the early hours one morning outside Guatemala City. The leaders told us we would be heading to the city dump to meet the people there, but I wasn’t prepared.
As our van rolled in to the dump area, my heart was beginning to scream “I can’t do this!” Trash was piled everywhere along the roads. The smells were getting stronger and stronger as we ventured further in to “dump city.” I held my breath for awhile, but even that didn’t help.
Dogs were roaming everywhere, as we pulled in to get a briefing on this area. Poverty is overwhelming in Guatemala. For some to provide for their families they head to the City Dump daily, working 12-16 hours to bring home a meager $2. These people are called “scavengers” in the community. After a short briefing, we headed to the actual dump site.
At the city’s edge we came upon a grave yard. We stopped and began to walk. You could hear the sounds of trucks off in the distance. The grave yard was eery. Some graves were nicely kept, while others were torn in to ruins.
We continued to walk. You knew we were getting close as black buzzards were flying above. The black birds not only dotted the sky, they flocked in the grave yard.
Arriving at the back of the property, we stood on a ledge over looking the dump. It was busy and sounded like any city dump yard. The smell was even familiar, but what was not registering in my senses was the sight of people working tirelessly among the trash.
They come for the day. Arriving early to be the first there to glean the best “stuff,” they work with out a restroom or food all day. They only things they have with them are what they carry down into this dump hole to work all day. Sitting up umbrella stands, they sift through trash looking for what they might bring back to make a few bucks off of.
People were everywhere. Birds were everywhere. Trash was everywhere. All the sudden I had a new perspective on what I throw away and call trash. They look for cans and plastic they can recycle, electronics that maybe they can have repaired, and even old clothes they can clean up and resell.
Trying to comprehend this lifestyle and make sense of it was almost beyond my thought capacity. Then we had the opportunity to meet Marlon. You must read his story here, as told by Jeff Goins. Did you read the story? Seriously, you must!
Marlon’s story was such inspiration to me. How does a 6 year old care for his family? I had witnessed it the day before sitting in the city market in Antique.
This young boy, probably six, walked by carrying a bag of plastic bottles. He soon spotted another bottle and reached to pick it up. He had 3 younger brothers in tow that he seemed to be responsible for. I was so captivated by the scene, I only picked up my camera in enough time to snap this shot.
I was thankful for Marlon’s story. I realized these aren’t ‘scavengers’, they are hard working people trying to provide for their families in any way that they can.
I do have to admit, I left the site discouraged. The need seemed so vast. They need help and a hope for a better tomorrow. How in the world could I truly help? What could I do that would even begin to put a dent in this poverty? I was not comfortable with the helplessness I was feeling.
Amid the trash of life, it is so often hard to see the real treasures. Our eyes focus on the circumstance, appearance, and even the bigness of the picture. It’s the same for you and I — we have situations we can’t see beyond.
So what do we do?
We take the next step.
For once we have seen a need, there are ways we can help. We might just not recognize the difference we can make in the moment.
I’m happy to share tomorrow what happened after I left that dump feeling helpless to plant any hope for a great future. A next step was revealed.
What step are you taking today?
in your home?
in your community?