On the ugly.

Here in Honduras, I’ve had the privilege to see some…ugly.

In my last post I wrote about the privilege of experiencing the beauty of this foreign place. It was a fun post to write. I love seeing beautiful things and take even greater joy in sharing them with those of you who aren’t here with me. But when I went to bed that night, it was the ugly that I have seen that was on my mind. And that made me realize some things.

I think I wrote the post about the beauty, in part, because I genuinely wanted to share it. But I think I also wrote it because thinking and writing about the beauty here helped me – rather, allowed me – to forget for a moment about the ugly.

But the ugly is here too, and it is just as real as the beauty. And part of my privilege in being here is to see both.

So in the interest of being honest…

I have seen some ugliness here.

The children with big eyes and copper toned hair that betrays malnourishment…their hunger is ugly.

The men who guard buildings – hotels and banks and wealthy people’s homes – with machine guns and a stern, vigilant gaze…the violence that makes them necessary, and the desperation that leads to violence is ugly.

The mine that has been carved out of the lush mountainside of El Corpus: the heavy machinery that frightens children on their way to the river, the contamination that prevents them from bathing in its cool, refreshing swimming holes and waterfalls, the acrid smell of chemicals that burn your nostrils, the flat muddy expanse that used to be a living green hill,  the the angry bark of the dogs who defend the gold…its greed, contamination, sounds, and smells are ugly.

The 12-year-old who came to our clinic who was sent away from her family at 10 and now lives with her “novio” of 17…her loss of innocence and her powerlessness are ugly.

The healthcare system, with its understaffed rural health posts, which are at times stocked with little more than ibuprofen and a malfunctioning blood pressure cuff, and overrun urban public hospitals that haven’t a prayer of caring for the poor, often illiterate, desperate patients who line up before dawn to be seen…its hopelessness is ugly.

The trash that litters the hillsides, that floats down the streets when the rain turns roads into rivers…it is ugly, too.

Poverty. Powerlessness. Sickness. Shame. Violence. Hunger. Hopelessness. Weariness. Depression. Isolation. Fear. These are among the ugly things that I have seen. But as unpleasant as it is to write about them, to deny them would be to deny the realities and idealize the difficulties faced by the people who live, love, struggle, and survive in the breathtakingly beautiful yet equally oppressive place.

I seek out the beauty. I believe in the beauty. But it doesn’t erase the ugly. And on the hard days, that is what is on my mind when I go to sleep at the end of another beautiful day in Honduras.

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2 responses to “On the ugly.”

  1. Jim Garrett says :

    Even in your description of the ugly, your writing is still beautiful:)

  2. Bonnie says :

    Jenna, Life is beautiful, and as you have observed, it can have an ugliness which makes us cringe. Something beautiful and admirable is that you are part of the process to balance the ugliness with goodness, real help to ease a portion of need and desperation. We can do that is various ways in our own lives, by simple kindness, donating time, goods, money, and by praying. But you, Jenna, are in very intense situation where the need is obvious and you are giving personal, real time help. It must be frustrating and satisfying at the same time. What an education you are continuing to experience.

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