Best of Freshman Writing
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PSU – Berks
As I entered the room with Sheena, another member of our team, I had no idea what to expect, and I will never forget what I saw. She looked so young and frail. I could see large bruises against her dark skin lining her arms and face. As we approached her bed, she pulled herself under her covers, and I the look of fear that filled her bruised face remains burnt into my memory.
“How are you feeling, sweetie?” Sheena asked.
“What happened? Why are you here?”
I didn’t know what to say. I was at a complete loss for words. After about a minute of silence, a nurse came in to check her IV and vitals.
What happened to her?” I asked.
“They found her a few nights ago. She was raped and left in the street,” she said through a thick Afrikaans accent.
After the few seconds it took me to process what she had said, I asked, “How old is she?”
“Are the police doing anything about it?”
“They are looking for who did it, but there is really nothing they can do about it. This kind of stuff happens all the time.”
I was appalled. How could a six year old go through something like that and the police be unable to do anything about it? At that time of year in Africa, schools were just letting out for summer vacation; she should be out playing with her friends, not lying in a hospital bed afraid of the world.
Because I am a man, I was never able to get close to her. She was too afraid of me because of what that man did to her. I tried to think back to when I was six and remember everything I had to worry about. Nothing came to mind. I lived in a safe area, and my only worry was whether or not my parents would let me go outside and play with my friends. I never would have dreamt I could have been attacked. But that thing I could never have imagined is something this little girl now has to think about and remember every day of her life. That day, I learned how much I had to be thankful for, the most important of which is my safety. I guess that is the benefit of growing up in America.
Our team traveled to Namibia because our church had raised money to drill a well in the village of Kalkfeld and to do community outreaches in other poverty-stricken areas of the country. When one hears that somebody is living in “poverty,” one might think of having limited food, clothing and inadequate shelter. Webster’s Dictionary defines poverty as, “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” In 2010, the Census Bureau declared that there were 46.2 million Americans living in “poverty.” Most of those 46.2 million Americans have no idea what it is truly like to live in poverty; the fact is, even America’s poor families have household luxuries that should not be taken for granted. Eighty percent of poor households in America have air conditioning, and ninety-two percent have a microwave (Rector 1). Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV; more than half have video game systems, such as an Xbox or Playstation, and one-third can play them on their high definition, wide-screen plasma or LCD TVs (Rector 1).
Some say that the declining prices of many of these items means that it is no big deal that there are more of them in poor households and, yet, at the same time, state how poor families suffer from food shortages and poor housing. But according to a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ninety-six percent of poor parents said that their children have never gone hungry because they could not afford food (Rector 1).
In Africa, I watched as children with tattered clothing walked barefoot through broken beer bottles pushing toy cars that they made with trash they found in the streets. I watched women leave their homes in the morning carrying empty bottles and containers as they began to walk for miles to get clean water from a neighboring village. Once again, it made me thankful for all of the little things I have as an American that I took for granted.
In America, we have television shows like “My Super Sweet 16” where teenagers have birthday parties that cost their parents thousands of dollars. In every episode, these teens usually end up receiving a brand new car or some other extravagant gift, which they are often ungrateful for. In one episode, Audrey Reyes’ mother bought her a brand new Lexus SC430, which costs upwards of $67,000, but she threw a fit and started cursing at her mother because it was not the car she wanted (“Audrey”). That is the kind of behavior the media in America publicizes.
America also glamorizes shows like “Toddlers in Tiaras” and “Little Miss Perfect.” These television shows show parents dressing up and entering their young daughters in beauty pageants. Some parents on the show spend between $1800 and $3000 for custom dresses that their daughters will wear only once. The young girls are sometimes shown crying saying that they would rather be outside like regular kids. Despite how cruel and disgusting these shows are, millions of people tune in every week to watch as these young girls are exploited and used by their own parents.
That little girl who was lying bruised and beaten in that dirty hospital room in Africa has none of these luxuries and spoils we have here in America. She doesn’t have parents spending thousands of dollars for a birthday party. She doesn’t have a $67,000 car to be ungrateful for. She doesn’t even know if she will have clean water today. Most importantly, she doesn’t know if somebody will abduct, use and leave her for dead simply walking home from school. We as Americans need to learn to be grateful for all of the little things that we take for granted everyday.
“Audrey.” My Super Sweet 16. MTV. 18 June 2007. Television. Web. 1 Mar. 2012.
Hall, Wynton C. “Childhood Poverty’s Low-Hanging Fruit.” 23 Dec. 2010. Web. 1 Mar. 2012.
Nord, Mark, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson. Household Food Security in the United States, 2009. N.p.: Washington GPO, 2010. N. pag. Web. 23 Feb. 2012.
“Poverty.” Ia. Merriam-Webster. n.d. N. pag. Web. 23 Feb. 2012.
Rector, Robert, and Rachel Sheffield. “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America’s Poor.” 13 Sep. 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2012.
U.S. Census Bureau. “How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty.” Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division: Poverty. Washington GPO, 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2012.
Williams, Walter E. “Are the Poor Getting Poorer.” 30 Oct. 2007. Web. 1 Mar. 2012.
Christopher Young's essay appears here with his express written permission and cannot be reproduced in any manner or fashion without his express written permission.