Switch headers Switch to TIGweb.org

Are you an TIG Member?
Click here to switch to TIGweb.org

HomeHomeExpress YourselfPanoramaOne Evening in Recoleta
a TakingITGlobal online publication

(Advanced Search)

Panorama Home
Issue Archive
Current Issue
Next Issue
Featured Writer
TIG Magazine
Short Story
My Content
One Evening in Recoleta Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Jonathan Teel, Argentina Nov 1, 2005
Child & Youth Rights , Culture   Short Stories


One evening in October, after seeing a movie in the posh Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires, I was approached by a young girl with her two friends in tow. In Recoleta, home to a cemetery for Argentina’s richest families and other uppity hot spots in Buenos Aires, kids who could be in kindergarten are forced by their parents to sell roses on the street until the wee hours of the morning. I quickly became the center of attention of these tired and dirty kids who spend their nights darting between strolling tourists and begging them to buy a flower.

Every day in Buenos Aires foreigners and Argentines are faced with a dilemma. Should they give spare change to the children, elderly and disabled people begging on the street? Many of my friends in Buenos Aires often ignore the pleas of the needy. They believe, as many do here, that giving to the beggars encourages them to stay on the street, instead of looking for a job. Though I agree with them in some respects, I give my spare change and help where I can. There are no quick and easy answers to this dilemma. For the kids in the Recoleta, buying a rose helps deplete their stock and increases the chances that they are fed and go to bed before sunup. Unfortunately, helping these poor children does little to improve their overall situation and never causes their parents to take them off the street. These are sad realities but I believe that there are ways to make a sad situation seem less hopeless.

I came to Buenos Aires in September of 2003 with the idea that I wanted to make a difference. My work in Buenos Aires for a non-profit organization called HelpArgentina provided me a way to help a country in crisis. Raising money for the Argentine poor and empowering projects of transparent Argentine charities is a part of HelpArgentina works toward Argentina’s recovery. My struggle with the varied consequences of giving still frustrated me as I went to work or out for a night on the town. Making a difference, I have realized, does not have to mean securing millions of dollars for stagnant Argentine charities or assisting the country’s poor. To put a smile on the face of sick child, to help feed a hungry family or to sit down with a random homeless person and learn about his or her life can be equally meaningful and important. For me, the rewards of a simple gesture of kindness make all the difference in the world.

Determined to do something different, I refused to buy a flower from the kids and instead offered to buy them hot dogs and a soda. I told them to wait a few minutes as my movie friends and I found a table at a nearby restaurant. Once my friends were settled, I went outside to follow up on my offer. Within seconds, three visibly tired and cranky children once again surrounded me. One of the girls was hesitant to follow us to the nearest hot dog stand. She may have feared that abandoning her duties would mean harsh repercussions from her parent(s), but she followed anyway. I bought three hot dogs for a peso each (about 35 cents) and a liter of Coca Cola, expertly negotiated for by the boy in the group. The boy then led us to the tables set up outside the restaurant. Playfully barking orders at me, I was surprised to find out that this little man was only seven years old. I asked the man at the door for permission to sit with them, as well as for some glasses so we could drink soda together.

For fifteen minutes, these kids were allowed to be children again. They chatted, laughed and joked with each other and with me. I could not help but smile at the comical scene unraveling before me. With the biggest smile of all, the little boy poured all of us glasses of Coke and demanded a toast or “brindis,” as it is called here. He giggled and insisted we toast over and over again. I knew I had brightened their day, if even for a moment.

Making a difference can mean allowing children to be children. It can mean allowing them to eat hot dogs, drink Coke and be silly. It was the kind of experience I was looking for when I came to Argentina. But I have also learned that not all generous acts have a happy ending. When the hot dogs were eaten and the bottle emptied, the sad reality of their situation seemed to sink in again. Rushing to get back to the street to sell their flowers, my new friends thanked me under their breath and disappeared quickly into the crowd.

Walking to our bus after dinner, I was greeted unhappily by one of the little girls who had enjoyed her hot dog and soda so youthfully a few hours earlier. She tugged on my pant leg and with a blank and emotionless look pleaded with me to buy a flower. The carefree and energetic girl I bonded with earlier had disappeared. It was as if we had never met.



You must be logged in to add tags.

Writer Profile
Jonathan Teel

This user has not written anything in his panorama profile yet.
You must be a TakingITGlobal member to post a comment. Sign up for free or login.