I "want"
Jacqueline Blendermann, Division 2, 12th grade #ws16e-s2d2

You know when you are driving down highway 55 and you see that billboard with an emaciated child staring up at you with the most ample, pulchritudinous eyes? There will usually be a pithy statement to go along with it, such as, “One in Five Children faces hunger” or “Ignore me, I’m used to it.” So many people, too many people, will look at that and feel a pang, a twitch, some pulling of the heart strings perhaps, and then look away. It is the society we have grown up in, or, at least the kind that I am accustomed to.

Let us take a moment to talk about want. To want something, by definition, is to “desire for something.” I do not think it is a stretch to assume everyone in the entire world has wanted for something in their lives. If I want food, I go into my kitchen and make a sandwich. If I want to release some energy, I tie on my Nike running shoes and go for a run. If I want to see a friend, I pick up the phone and and ask them to come over; you get the point. Even if you or I or whomever has never wanted for anything major, everyone has at least wanted for something small. It is what drives society. Without want the world would be stagnant and mundane. Honestly, none of us would even be here if you want to delve that deep into the meaning of want. The point is, we all understand want. But do we understand need?

I am ashamed to say that it was not until last summer that I finally understood what need, real need, meant. It was unbearably hot out, and through the heat waves moving across the ground I could just make out some of the unleveled shacks, if you will, in the distance. To call them shacks is almost too polite, for most of these structures were nothing more than some branches covered with randomly assembled fabrics. I was in the heart of one of the poorest countries in the world. Entering its poorest city, I was in Cité Soleil, Haiti. As I got closer the view became increasingly more difficult to take in. Malnourished people to my right, my left, and everywhere in between. There were children playing with a “ball” of plastic bags tied together. There was a woman laying out circles of mud to bake in the blistering sun. I would learn later that those circles, called mud cakes by the natives, were the main source of nutrients for most of the city. There was “clean” laundry hanging from thin drying lines. While I assumed these linens and clothes were clean, the dirt streaks and brownish stains told me otherwise. These people were missing almost everything that would be seen as normal when walking into the average American community.

I was there to provide something that was in especially great need. I would say want, but clean water is something they needed. See, these people actually knew what feeling the need for something was. They knew what real thirst was; when your stomach is in knots for hours because your cells are starting to shrivel due to a lack of a simple necessity. Except what you or I might consider simple, was really a desperate struggle for them. Although there was a river within a quarter of a mile from the town, the nearest clean water supply was 5 miles away. Dirty water is suitable for cleaning dishes, okay for taking a bath, but completely unfathomable to be considered qualified drinking water. My job was to hand out water, get to know the inhabitants of the area, and aid in any way I could with the building of a water well within the city limits to provide the people with something they had never had direct access to, clean water.

So, why is this tiny city in this considerably small impoverished third world country my favorite place to go? To put it bluntly, it was the first place, the first time, that I realized for the first time what a privileged life I had. I am a white American living in a large home hailing from an upper-middle class family. I did not know the first thing about need, poverty, or helplessness. These people did not know what wanting to watch Saturday Night Live at 7 PM Central time was like. These people did not know what wanting to go through a McDonald’s drive-thru for that delicious, deep-fried large fry was like. These people did not know what wanting to go lay out by a pool to relax and tan was like. These people, people just like me, wanted for the simple necessities of life. The biggest thing I took away from that trip was that you can never really, truly understand something until you see it. I don’t mean see it as in see it on a billboard, but really, truly see it. Until you can talk to, touch, hug, cry and rejoice with, you haven’t seen anything.
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