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Another poem to share: One Child's Gift is Another's Garbage

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Dear Systahs,
One of the things that struck me during the World Pulse's delegation trip to Kenya was how committed the children seem to getting their education. From saving to pay school fees, walking for miles, wearing uniforms, sometimes living away from your family. These are all immediate sacrifices that are necessary to invest in creating a more productive future.

But those are not widespread values among youth in America. After working as a journalist for 25 years, I now teach writing to middle and high school students. Each week is an exercise in patience and intention. I sometimes have to raise my voice, ring a loud bell or do tricks every 15 minutes to keep their attention. I know it's not a simple comparison, but it sure saddens me. I wrote this poem, mostly for my students at home to learn how to appreciate the opportunity that they're throwing away.

©2011 S. Renee Mitchell

In rural Kenya, children survive without parents
Drought has turned their rivers into dust
And their empty bellies rumble familiar lullabies

In urban America, children may go hungry, but rarely starve
‘till their ribs poke through their skin
Drinking water is often as close as the nearest faucet
And more parents lose their children to neglect than HIV/AIDS

In rural Kenya, children wear dirty, ill-fitted hand-me-downs
Play soccer in the streets with discarded water bottles
And live in tiny rooms where tin roofs and plastic grocery bags
Keep the temperamental rain from drowning them in their sleep

In urban America, children parade in designer brands
That mask a desperate longing to feel beautiful inside
Their only exercise is to regularly stalk the brightly lighted shopping malls
Texting, talking, flirting and carousing and yet still feel disconnected

In rural Kenya, children envy those in crisp school uniforms
Because it means their brains are fed and they never sleep hungry
Dreams are free there, but education has a price many cannot afford

In urban America, children discard their books and ignore their teachers
They skip classes, waste time and grumble that learning taxes their brains
Education is free there
But the children have forgotten how to dream

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