The Benefit of the Doubt
Friday was cold and very windy in Antigua, and the night was even chillier. Azucen@ had on a fleece jacket and big knitted hat. When she, John, and I were walking home about 8pm, just a few blocks from our house, we spotted a woman with two small children and a baby on her back. They were standing on the nearly-deserted sidewalk near the corner of 5a Avenida and 9a Calle. The woman asked us for money, and as we do too often in Guatemala with so many people asking for money, we said, No, lo siento ("No, I'm sorry") and crossed the street. It's too easy to get jaded living here, hearing stories about people bringing children with them to beg at all hours just to make people feel sorry for them. But about 10 feet in from the curb, John and I looked at each other.
"It's cold tonight," he said. "What if they really do need help?"
So we took out Q50 (about $7) from my bag and crossed the street back to the family. The woman was fighting back tears and she said thank you and told us she'd been robbed and had lost everything they'd brought to Antigua, including the money for their hotel on the other side of town, past Santa Lucia. We spent a few minutes talking to her and found out that her children were six, two, and one. They lived seven hours away, but were in Antigua to take care of some paperwork because her husband had died three months ago.
I asked her if she had any food for the kids. No, she answered, not even a pacha for the baby. Her lip was quivering and there were tears brimming on her eyes. So we walked them over to a small tienda and bought a bag of groceries and diapers. We asked her how much the hotel was, and she said Q60. So we gave her a few hundred more quetzales so that she would have enough to stay for a night and then have bus fare back home. She said gracias over and over again.
Is it possible it was all an act? I suppose it is. But even if it was (and we don't believe it to have been so - If she'd been a scammer she would've almost certainly been in a crowded area with lots of prospects), at least those children had a few days' worth of food. It broke our hearts. And inevitably, as adoptive parents of a child relinquished for reasons of poverty, we saw our own daughter in those kids' eyes. So I took off my scarf and put it on one of those little girls' necks.
There are so many people in this world - including the United States - that are in desperate situations and need help. Please don't make the same mistake I almost did and leave someone to suffer, just because there are some people out there who abuse generosity.
This story is a true story. It came from a friend of mine in Guatemala. Allow it to touch your heart today. May our eyes be opened to the hurts of this world.
Merry Christmas, my friends!