May 30, 2012
People often talk about how poor Sicily is. The New York Times just ran an article featuring Sicily and referred to its “scruffy charm.”
“It’s Africa!” Northern Italians will scoff.
But I’ve just returned from Africa, and to me “scruffy” old Sicily looks like the land of milk and honey.
Indeed, everything’s relative.
I saw such poverty in northern Tanzania that I walked around dazed for two weeks, a perpetual lump in my throat. Homeless kids sleep in the middle of intersections because they’re the “safest” place to be. Rivers of sewage run through the marketplace, and flies swarm raw meat and fish. You have to hold your nose while you shop.
Homes without water.
I worked with teachers and went into schools, where 150 kids cram into a classroom much smaller than the average U.S. classroom. Fewer than half the kids get a desk; the others sit in the dirt. There are no books. Teachers are heroic, and completely overwhelmed.
The children are beautiful, with a dignity and endurance that defies imagination.
They stole my heart and taught me more than any book ever could.