Who’s Face is on the Dollar?
It’s been quite the whirlwind of emotions and events since I’ve stepped back onto home soil. Now back for a little over two months, you’d think I’d be in routine and settled back into culture. But that’s the thing about a missions trip like this, we aren’t meant to “settle back” but to push forward. So though I’ve settled in different ways, there are still things that don’t settle, one being my stomach.
Well, aside from digestive issues, my stomach has a difficult time settling back into a culture that takes so many things for granted. And many things make me sick to my stomach sometimes. For instance, my family took a trip out to North Carolina to visit my brother. We went out to eat one night at a grill restaurant on the coast. In other circumstances (meaning before going to Swazi) the place would’ve been amusing, much like it is supposed to be for tourists, however, I did all I could to choke down the emotions of disgust as we sat down to eat.
The place was decorated with dollar bills. Real dollar bills, hundreds, no…thousands of dollar bills covered the walls and ceilings, all dollars people left behind or signed or wrote phrases on and pinned them up. I could feel my body heat up from the inside out. As my family members looked and talked about different dollar bills and funny sayings, I fumed with bitterness and disgust. When I saw the dollar bills, I didn’t see Washington’s face, instead I saw Johannes’. One dollar would cover Johannes’ bus fare to school and back, a fare he can’t otherwise afford to pay and sometimes couldn’t get to school if a friend, sibling, or loving neighbor doesn’t have a few rand to lend him. I saw Tenele’s face, and Khanysile’s and Tiny’s…I saw the faces of the prostitute girls in Matsapa who sell their bodies over and over for five measly dollar bills. While this restaurant was filled with them, I couldn’t help but voice my urge to rip down all the bills and take off running. I wanted to scream, “What a waste! Do you know you could save a life with all this money? Do you know you could send a child to school with these dollars bills? Do you know you could keep a 14 year old girl out of prostitution for one night with a handful of these bills?!” I wanted to scream, I wanted to cry, I felt like throwing up. To see dollar bills sitting there as decorations when there are children who would do ANYTHING, even sell their bodies, for a few off the wall.
People often forget and ask which president is on which bill or coin. I used to know this well…but not anymore. I don’t see them or remember which bill has who’s face; instead I see the faces of my children, and a brick drops to the bottom of my gut. I feel ashamed of our culture, our carelessness of money, and ashamed of myself, seeing how easily it was for me to point out how other people recklessly spend their money, but ignoring the fact that I do, too.
One dollar used to be just that…a dollar. Money for a soda, for something off McD’s dollar menu or a 99 cent bottle of water. But now it’s much more than that. One dollar is one face. one child. one heart. one hand I can help. One dollar is a face I will never forget.