Where Goes Compassion?
The shops at the Santa Monica Pier weren't as ritzy as ones on Rodeo Drive, but still easily qualified as high-rent district. Shoppers buzzed in and out, making purchases and enjoying refreshments. (Yes, we did our fair share of buzzing). We were walking through the park when an aberrant sight caught my attention. I assumed it was an anomaly. A short walk up to the Promenade proved me wrong.
Amid all of this opulence, poverty reclined brazenly - again and again. Men and women with all their worldly possessions in a suitcase or shopping cart. One man held a sign with the remnants of malformed fingers attached to gnarled hands, "Help me get the surgery I need." He quickly moved the sign as I tried to take the picture. I'm pretty sure he was trying to gesture with a finger he no longer possessed.
As amazing as our time together was in LA, I came home with a nagging feeling that America is missing the mark. Poverty is everywhere; but strolling the streets of LA, it's present in stark contrast as the homeless sit within arm's reach of such abundance. They could literally reach out and touch it.
Dean Metz, a fellow blogger, wrote a touching article that was featured on the ADVANCE website in September 2011. He gave readers a glimpse into the Floating Doctors, a unique example of compassionate organizations that provide free medical care to impoverished and isolated areas in the developing world. American doctors and other health professionals provide free care in foreign countries while Americans lose their homes because they can't pay their medical bills (Toni Patt posted about this in her November 8, 2011, blog, "The Cost of Rehab").
Don't get me wrong. I'm glad those people in foreign countries are getting health care. Their stories and before/after photos tug at my heart and make my eyes weep. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated that we are tending problems in other nations before addressing our own. If, as a child, this man I encountered on the streets of LA had access to free surgery and follow-up care from organizations like the Floating Doctors, would he be spending his days panhandling the Promenade?