Look in my head

Friday, December 10, 2004

my trash...his treasure

It is the Christmas month and being that Americans are in the giving spirit they send lots of goodies to soldiers here in Iraq. So much so that we have to much and some of it gets thrown out. We pay our Iraqi workers between 7 and 11 dollars a day to clean the floors and take out the trash. This sounds like slave labor wages to most Americans but to an Iraqi this is good money. Several times I have observed Iraqi workers digging through our trash dumpsters. They find rugs that are stained, or lamps that people no longer wanted, etc. They have discovered that Americans are wasteful to the point that I can’t even make it to the dumpster with my trash without one of the workers wanting to go through it first. The other day I observed a man digging through the trash when he stumbled upon a pizza box that happened to have a few slices left in it. I was pretty surprised when he ate them not knowing how long they have been in the trash. I guess the 7 dollars a day we pay them goes to feed much of their extended family that is unemployed. It is quite a stark contrast to come to work and spend time searching e bay for the perfect i-pod for my wife...when guys are digging in the trash just outside. I felt the same way when I spent Christmas in Port a Prince Haiti in 99. I went to an orphanage and asked a young kid what he wanted for Christmas. I was expecting the answer I was accustomed to hearing from my young cousins. A new Game Boy. A motorized scooter maybe. The young boy at the orphanage said, "Sir, I would really like a can of Tuna....because I haven’t had any meat since last Christmas. My caregivers can only afford rice and beans once a day." If for nothing else a trip out of America reminds me of how blessed we are as a nation. I know there are still soup kitchens and people who go without in the States but you will be hard pressed to find groups of men digging though the trash, and a 6 year old who hasn’t had any meat in a year. We are truly fortunate.

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