I take in the information that this innocent 8-year-old mouth is telling me and think to myself that there is nothing I can do about this. Throughout the afternoon I continue to think about her cousin. This young girls' cousin happens to be a little girl of 6 or 7 years old who is probably the only child in the world that could have me so wrapped around her little finger. This is the girl who tells me I'm her ñaña (sister). The girl who spends almost the entirety of recreo in my arms, bossing me around and telling me where to take her to next. I think back to the week before when she allowed me to experience some of the most pure, unriddled joy I have known, watching her laugh for a solid 10 minutes while tossing a little ball around with me and M.E. She has this giggle that makes a smile cross your lips and a hug that makes you melt. She's the type of kid who makes you want to love more everyday and who brings joy into your days. The thought of this precious child, crying all through the night with pain makes my stomach churn.
I ask her cousin if the girl's dad will take her to the doctor. She looks at me and simply says, "No, no hay plata." I have heard this saying too many times now. What do you mean there's no money to bring this girl to the doctor? She has an infection on her scalp and is in pain, what do you mean she won't see a doctor? This little girl hasn't been to program in a while now and all efforts to stop by her house to check in on her have been unsuccessful. Her cousin tells me that she still isn't going to school. Last week I ask her cousin how she was, she tells me it still hurts and she still cries. I ask if she's been able to go to the doctor, the answer is still no. However, in an attempt to treat her, they have cut her hair. I don't know how much they cut and I honestly don't know much about this infection, but I have my doubts that this at-home hair cut will cure her wounds and will likely mean that she's still not going to school.
The weekend after I found out about her at-home remedy, I was sick. I had a bacterial infection which caused me body aches and resulted in me spending the entirety of a Saturday in bed with a fever. But Monday morning rolled around and the first thing that I did was drive to the doctors office. I didn't have to pay and even if I did, this wouldn't have been an issue. I went to the pharmacy and spent a few dollars on medicine and returned home knowing that I would take these pills and be fine. And if God forbid I became sick again, I wouldn't even blink an eye and the process would repeat itself.
And so this has got me to thinking about privilege. Sure, I've known my privilege for a while now. I was blessed with an incredible Catholic liberal arts education which challenged me to identify and recognize my privilege. But here it stares me in the face every single day.Because of the simple facts of my socio-economic status and where I was born, I never have and likely never will have to understand the phrase "no hay plata" which is an all too frequent refrain here. Because of these things, I have been spared physical suffering, humiliating medical home remedies, corrupt government and impossible university structures, and the pain of an empty stomach. And I will never be able to really, truly "get it."
I know my privilege is not something that will just go away. But, as Henri Nouwen reminds me:
"We are to be precisely where people are vulnerable, not to fix it or to change it. That is an unintended fruit of it, but that is not why we are there ... Ministry is witness. Its nothing else but saying, "I've seen something, I've experienced something, and I'm not afraid to share it with you if you ask me to.""So for all of the things my privilege has kept me from, it has also given me this: my privilege has provided me the incredible blessing of being here, of being with, of being witness. And so I can tell you now: I've seen something, I've experienced something, and I'm not afraid to share it with you if you ask me to.