The System

Ten minutes past security and I've already lost the tag for my checked luggage. Where has it gone? Probably fallen off onto the TSA conveyor belt. This is fine. I lose things. Only if they are not part of The System. My system. Where all the items that come on these trips have a place. I'm familiar with the place and know exactly where to go to summon each item at need. But this time I'm carrying a new backpack, and The System and placements have shifted slightly. I am expecting some losses, especially after spending a rushed morning realizing I needed to visit the ATM before dropping my car off in its spot, the extra spot at Andy's house.

I took out $200 and wondered if I should spread it out around my pockets in case of a robbery in the Third World. I ultimately decided not to, since, somewhere along the way, I came to reason that anything below $200 is Not That Big of a Deal, whereas spending or losing anywhere above $200 would qualify as a Very Big Deal. I am unsure where I gathered this logic since you would think that spending or losing any amount of money would be at least a Pretty Big Deal to someone without a steady job or a plan. But, nevertheless, it's all there, in my wallet, inside my backpack, and we are headed down to the Third World.


Maybe the Second World is really the plane that takes us from our world to theirs. It's not so often that it occurs the other way around. We go there to take and see, or to stay and give and feel like we are doing something to assuage the guilt of our having laid waste to their land and their economy. I used to be one of ones who desired to help, to make a difference, to be a face of America (the one and only) abroad. And now, what has changed? I no longer want the face that says, “Look at me. I'm OK! Everything that I represent must not be so bad! I am kind. I've brought gifts. And my language!-- you can only imagine the doors that would open if I were to teach it to you! Sure, I'm a little different than most of my people. I'm young! I've got time to be here. And you can bet that my parents are footing the bill. They're at work being normal so I can be here. A volunteer. One of the special ones. Here to show you what it's like to have what we have, how much better it would be to live the way we live.”

And then I might realize that, beyond the supplies, this may not be helping you at all. I've brought my kindness here, but you already knew about that. We could talk about family planning, but it seems the bonds in yours are stronger than mine at home. I can show you about business, but it's our business. It'd be ignorant to assume you don't have your own. I know a little bit about health and fitness. I can bring you medicines so someday you'll be well and strong. And for what? To live a long life and improve your society until it becomes an efficient and stable part of The System. Our system, where all the parts have a place, and we are familiar with the place and know exactly where to go to summon each item at need.

This time around, I think I'll just worry about what's in my backpack.