Take a hard look at this photo from Guatemala.

This is life outside of the comfortable Canadian bubble.

Two children, sitting in a sea of trash, not far from where piles of garbage burn, wait for their mother to finish scavenging along side the cows, a pig, a dog, and huge, jet-black vultures.

Do you wonder what that mother is thinking? Did she ever have dreams of another life? What does she want her children’s lives to be?

Or is this life, chained as it is to the unrelenting poverty she was born into, all that there is or could be?

As my friend Kyle King, who was with me when I took that photo, said: “These people are so poor they don’t even have the luxury of making bad choices.”

Since I returned from Guatemala, several people have told me they cannot look that photo for long.

It’s too hard, they say. It is an uncomfortable reality that strikes too deep.

However, I wonder the real reason is the thought, rumbling in the back of the mind, that it could just have easily be you or I in that refuse-filled limbo.

After all, it is only by fate’s roll of the dice, an accident of history, that we were born into Canadian hope instead of Guatemalan desperation.

We are not better than that mother. We are just damn lucky not to be her.

So in a sense, she is us and we are her. We’re just all playing the hand that Fortuna dealt us.

The difference is, we can get up from the table if we want to. She cannot.

Look again at that photo. Do not turn away. Try, if you can, to step into her shoes if only in your mind’s eye. Connect with the plight of a mother forced to live on garbage to keep her children alive.

How can you not feel the urge to help in some way?

So what do we do?

The ancient Greeks had a wonderful ethical maxim — be careful whom you turn from your door, for one day it may be you who survive on the generosity of strangers.

That basic idea of humanity solidarity can be enough. We help because we can. Because we should.

Not everyone, of course, will go to the mountains of Guatemala or donate to an NGO that works there.

If your concerns are closer to home, there are those in our own neighbourhoods that need your help.

When it comes right down to it, we are stuck in this mess together. It is only by lending a helping hand that we might leave the Earth a little less miserable than the state we found it in.

This week I am wrapping up the last of my stories about Guatemala and Niagara’s deepening connection to that country and its people.

If I gleaned any wisdom from those nine days in Jalapa — nine days that felt like a month — it is that taking the time to help one another is just about the most worthwhile thing we can do.

Most of us will not invent a cure for a disease, discover a distant planet or create a revolutionary technology. But we can reach out and make a difference, however small it may be, for someone else.

So I would urge you to not just donate a local charity (but please do) but actually participate. Volunteer. Get on the front lines. Get your hands dirty.

Trust me, it’s well worth it the effort. And it may just change how you see the world we share.


To donate to Wells of Hope click here

To volunteer contact randyh@wellsofhope.com