Melanie told me that she was in school to work very hard because she wanted to help "her people." "What do you think of the people here?" she asked me as she handed a begging man a coin, a coin I did not give. "What do you think of our government here?" Her questions caught me off guard - so unlike the usual questions those trying to sell something rehearse. With each of my answers - answers I have been trying to put together for three months now, she nodded and smiled and would usually say, "yes, I know."
We agreed that there were some terribly poor situations here, and that no child should have to live starving, dirty, without education, sick, begging, the list goes on. Like the children I come across on a daily basis. Like the children she was passing on her way to school everyday so that one day she could grow up and help.
"Do you believe in the God." Yes. "Yes, I love the God very much. I talk to the God all of the time. I read the book about the God. I ask Him to help these people, and I ask Him when I need help."
"You are like me," she finally said. "You travel and you help the people." I told her she was well on her way. She made me want to work harder. Melanie wants to work in the government - law, in particularly, so she can fight for the thousands of poor that stumble along Peru's cobblestone streets.
I cannot think of many girls that young walking up to a stranger to sit down and pick through the observations of a tourist concerning the government, the state of poverty, her own neighbors, her dreams. I was left thinking more about the Peruvian government and about why Peru's Challenge is here. And I was left in awe of this young mind and huge heart that wanted to work so hard to do work similar to what I was doing. We plan to meet again, one day. But she left smiling, repeatedly saying she was happy to find someone with her own dreams.
Annie and I head to Machu Picchu tomorrow - a 4-day trek that is going to test the amoebas, giardia, salmonella, UTIs and other things that are now living in us. We can't wait.