Another first for me was the street children. Being raised in a pretty protected environment of the Pacific Northwest, I had never seen children living in the streets and begging.
It was in Lodwar, Kenya that I first had a mob of children begging me for money. At the time it seemed novel, and since I was with several Kenyans they quickly shooed them away.
The more we encountered them, the more we began to resent them. I'm not sure if it was constantly being faced by a problem that we could do little about, or that culture shock was just too much for us.
Not until we had been in Africa for 6 months or more, did we start relearning the compassion. We were not simply overwhelmed anymore, but started to see each child as an individual. Driving through Kampala, Uganda one morning, we saw a small girl, not much older than our daughter. She had a baby strapped to her back and she was fighting off several boys. The boys were trying to take the food she had found in the garbage heap.
For just a moment, both Nicole and I let our guard down, and started to cry. This memory still make me ill to think about. Too often Americans do this with the rest of the world. We all put up "protective" walls to keep from caring too deeply about the needs of the world. Every so often, the media captures just the right image and we all care for a minute or two.
I am convinced that if each of us just took the time to seen the needs of the world for they are... individual people, each with a story to tell... we would help a lot more.