Happy two hundred thirty-ninth birthday to the greatest country in the world!
I am so blessed, so privileged to be an American. And while I still take that blessing for granted every single day, having lived in a third-world country for part of my adult life helped me to realize how very fortunate I am to call the United States of America my home, sweet home.
Living on the Mexican-American border in El Paso, Texas brings almost daily reminders of the benefits that comes with being an American. Driving from the east to the west side of town, I travel on I-10 which runs parallel to the Rio Grande, the natural boundary between these two countries. Not more than a trickle of water in some places separates a world of poverty, unfathomable crime, and corruption from a land of where dreams really do come true (no, I don’t mean Disney World), where the rags to riches story can be a reality.
I feel so fortunate to have been born on this side of that river.
Yesterday, Paul and I watched a documentary that left us both awestruck at the daily hardships people in other countries must endure. It was entitled “On the Way to School” by Pascal Plisson. For almost 90 minutes, we watched the struggles of children from four countries as they make their way to school.
A brother and sister in Kenya, must endure a two-hour, nine-mile journey that takes them across the African plains.
In Morocco, three preteen girls climb the Atlas Mountains for four hours and 13 ½ miles to their boarding school each Monday, and repeat the trip home on Friday.
In India, a disabled, middle-school aged boy is pushed in a raggedy, rusted wheelchair over sandy terrain for two miles and 75 minutes by his younger brothers.
Two Argentinian siblings brave an 11 miles 90 minute horseback ride through rugged, rocky countryside to attend school.
We follow the children along their way as they encountered wild animals (not your occasional stray dog but the possibly of attack by elephants, giraffes, zebras), injuries as they climbed extremely steep mountainsides. The boys in India struggle to push their brother’s rickety wheelchair across a soft-bottomed river.
As the documentary ended, each of the children were interviewed about why they bear these incredible hardships just to go to school. Their answers were so moving. They go to school with hopes of improving the lives of others, becoming doctors to keep others from being sick or physically disabled as in the case of the Indian boy. They go to school to learn in hopes of teaching others someday. They go to school not only in hopes of bettering their own lives but with the hope that they can be the change for their country.
I asked PC how the movie made him feel, what he took away from it. And he said he felt kind of ashamed. “Everyday these kids would go through that to do a little learning but we can’t get our own kids to care about school. All they worry about is passing.” I would add that American kids don’t worry about learning at all, just getting school over with, each day, each year.
I couldn’t help but think of the way older generations here always jest about their walk through rain and snow, a five mile, uphill route to school. In Tennessee, I walked probably close to a mile for elementary school (uphill most of the way there but happily downhill back to home). During the early days of desegregation, my sister was bused to a school about 90 minutes away from the community where we lived. PC rode a bus 2 hours each way to school in rural Nebraska.
But nothing like what these children faced, every day, every day with enthusiasm.
Here’s a little clip from the movie.
So this holiday weekend, if you are looking for something to do, or you are a bit disgruntled with our country, a right by the way that many have given their lives for you to enjoy, hunt up this quiet little movie on Netflix.
And share it with the children in your life.
Hugs and kisses,