Take off Your Mask to See More Clearly

Whose mask needs to come off first?

The Borderline is Up to You-Part One
I had an opportunity revisit the border town of Nuevo Progreso that we used to visit often when we lived in Texas. The last time we visited was when my son, Andrew was six weeks old, now he’s fifteen. We only spent about 5 hours there this July but we managed to experience a lot. Join me on our journey!

A Beggar’s Face

The children. It’s the children that get to ya. They approach carefully, screwing up their little faces as they come, dirt puffing out from their flip-flops. “Señora, ¿chicles?!” They come closer and begin circling us, “Meester, you want? Only one quarter!” Their faces. Oh those faces get to me.

But of course they do. That’s the training they have. They’re taught to beg, to plead, to look dejected and needy. So the little boy screws up his snubbed nose and furrows his little brow into a vision of hopelessness. The young girl scuffs a little extra dust and pulls the corners of her dirty mouth down into sadness, tugging on her little brother’s arm. He gestures to the packets of gum and in the most pathetic voice he can muster calls out, “¿Chicles, Señor?” The very pictures of poverty and need.

I hate it. I hate seeing children that way.

And they count on it.

I hate it so badly that it makes me feel a little surge of anger. “Stop looking so sad!” I want to shout at them. “Stand up straight, be proud of who you are – I would much rather help you when I see you helping yourself and growing!” I find myself feeling angry at the parents who would send their kids out with packets of those infernal chicles to haunt tourists at their borders.

But that’s the rub, isn’t it? They’ve been taught to beg because it works. They have to beg because they need the money. Parents send their children into the streets for the obvious reason that people are more tenderhearted towards kids. They’ve been taught to be subservient because that’s what makes people feel better about giving—“helping the poor” and all that. They’ve been taught that it pays to be unhappy.

Is that what it takes for us to help others? Does he have to look sad and downtrodden in order for us to offer a helping hand? Does she have to cry to receive encouragement? Do they have to be completely broke to have someone offer them a friendly meal?

Do we have to wear a beggar’s face?

Or could we take off our own mask and begin to look at each other with an understanding that does not require knowledge, but rather a compassionate heart. Maybe if we took off our own mask, we could begin to avoid teaching others to wear one.

Maybe if we took off our own #mask, we could clearly see other's needs. via @caregivermom #InspireMeMonday Click To Tweet

Maybe we could get rid of the need for a beggar’s face!


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  • Impressive analysis.

    I’m afraid I was inured to the “baksheesh, miz-tair!” tactics found in a different part of the world; parents there were rumoured to deliberately mutilate their children to make their fundraising efforts all the more compelling.

    But be that as it may…we live in a society that does not raise an eyebrow at a $4 cup of coffee, when that is just less than someone in central Africa earns in a week.

    One day, perhaps soon, the masks we hold in place will be forcibly ripped away…the bumper-sticker wisdom says it all.

    (Please pardon the expression that follows – no way to make it pretty, maybe because WE are not pretty.)

    Jesus is Coming, and Boy is He Pissed.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your DYing Spouse 38 – Stages of Grief – DenialMy Profile

    • Andrew – as always you add a twist that catches me by surprise. I definitely think our world is a disappointment to Jesus many times. I too learned to block out the “neediness” among some cultures, hearing the rumors of mistreatment in order to earn money. And the need is so huge, how do we even begin? The truth is, I’m not sure. Maybe it’ begins with that $4 cup of coffee? 😉
      I pray we see the masks as well as the reality of others’ lives through the eyes of God…
      Carol recently posted…Take off Your Mask to See More ClearlyMy Profile

  • Thanks, Carol, for this thought-provoking essay. I struggle with this, because I really don’t want to be seen as needy — EVER!
    Pride, right?
    I often think of the phrase “unveiled faces” and long for the day when we will appear before Him with nothing but honesty and our true selves.
    Michele Morin recently posted…The Great Eight!My Profile

    • Michele I’m with ya! One of the hardest things to do when my son was so sick was to learn to ACCEPT help from those around me. I have no problem giving…but accepting? And yes, maybe it’s pride…actually, yes. It’s pride. I don’t want to be needy – but then again, I sure need Jesus!
      Carol recently posted…Take off Your Mask to See More ClearlyMy Profile

  • great post carol. i’ll be thinking on this one for awhile. take off my mask so i can see the needs of others? hmm. yes.
    martha brady recently posted…AN UNLIKELY CONVERT: ROSARIA C. BUTTERFIELD…My Profile


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