The Road Less Traveled This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 13, 2008
She quietly hobbled into the clinic when her number was called, clearly in excruciating pain. When asked what was troubling her, she lifted her left leg to reveal the sole of her foot. The entire medical team froze in shock. A cut on her left foot had become so infected that we could almost see the bones. It was incredible to think that anyone could stand, never mind walk, on such an injury.

We treated her foot, pouring ethyl alcohol on the wound, applying salves, and bandaging it to ensure that this basic, temporary treatment would provide a little comfort. The girl sat silently all the while, and despite her pain, smiled and thanked us when the last bandage was in place.

One of the nurses enquired what had caused such a terrible injury, and she simply replied, “Mis padres no tienen dinero” (My parents don’t have any money), which is to say, they couldn’t afford shoes and socks for her. Moved by her sad plight, I took off my sock, put it on her bare foot, and told her to be careful. After thanking the medical staff one more time, she slowly limped away. That night, I cried myself to sleep. This is the story of a six-year-old girl I met during a medical mission trip in 2006.

Knowledge can indeed be a curse. Every member of the medical team realized that the girl had a slim chance of surviving such an injury, especially with her financial difficulties and the infection that had set in. Nevertheless, we were forced to pretend that she would be okay. We found little solace in the small comfort we provided her. In all likelihood, she is now dead, since her parents probably would not forgo essential needs, such as food and fuel, to pay for the medical treatment she needed. This is not a unique story in third-world nations, where poverty is the norm and the economic oppression of oligarchic rule cripples the lower classes.

As the son of Christian missionaries, service has defined my life. I have lived in England, where we worked with the marginalized Middle Eastern and Asian minorities. I have lived in Guatemala, where we encountered political oppression, inhumane poverty, and broken lives every time we turned around. I am now in America, where I have directed my service to my local hospital, food drives, and church music ministries. Furthermore, I have thrown myself into the newly available academic opportunities – AP courses, college summer programs, and scholarship societies. But I cannot forget the poor, the oppressed, and the needy all over the world. Their cries to be treated with dignity haunt me and inspire me to pursue my dreams ever faster.

As such, I have decided to apply to the very best colleges, in hopes of receiving an education that will direct me to medical school and eventually to the World Health Organization. There, I will fight for the welfare of the ignored, impoverished indigents for whom medical care is a distant dream. Some people have told me to tone down my dreams and to lower my goals. But when I remember holding a dying baby in my arms, when I remember how the little girl hobbled out of sight, when I remember hearing that a missionary was shot dead by a paramilitary group, I cannot. I must go on, in the hope that after many years, I might quote to my grandchildren:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 31 comments. Post your own now!

cheerjulia said...
Oct. 9, 2012 at 8:50 pm
Guaranteed acceptance into college. (:
gokuuu said...
May 30, 2012 at 11:36 pm
Sad and inspiring story.
Sakura Amitarasu said...
May 21, 2012 at 8:39 am

This is a very saddening but a very touchening story that will soften the deep heart inside. This is a good story of humanity for all to see...

P.S. To the author: its very kind of you to give her your sock.

CrystalAngelDol said...
May 8, 2012 at 2:56 pm
one word, AWESOME!
Oct. 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm
I truly loved this article, the message is heart touching. I am from Guatemala and every single day, someone asks for help, it's tough. But after all, life here has made of me a strong woman with desires to change my community and the world as a whole. Every single person deserves opportunities and a good life. 
Kajungh said...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 12:31 am
This is amazing piece. Your experience with the six year old girl makes this piece come alive!! I always wanted to help the desperate but you already done so!
Macx14 said...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 2:29 pm
Fantastic writing, great message portrayed, and I loved it!! Great job!
Nyrihaz said...
Jun. 30, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Your simple piece is very powerful and it moved me to silence and tears. It carries meaning and feeling and that spice of misery that makes it perfect. Is good to see that there are still people that think like we all should think. I hope the best for you in the world. You will become a great doctor one day, without a doubt with God's help. Don't let go of your dreams and goals--they are noble. Taking the less traveled road is worth the try after all.

God bless you always!

Since... (more »)

CynnaBunn said...
Jun. 30, 2010 at 12:12 pm
This statment was so powerful....iunderstand where you are coming from with this story. :-)
NoLabelsPlease said...
Jun. 8, 2010 at 12:45 pm

You know...I believe in miracles. I believe this world needs miracles and you are that. This world needs someone as willing and...understanding...this world needs you.

I thought this world was almost rid of people like you, but I'm glad I read this because it gives me hope. There are still some awesome people in the world! (relief!)

Jiyala replied...
Dec. 29, 2011 at 1:12 pm
I m glad to become a member of teen ink`s chat said...
May 17, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Terrible and wonderful.

I've never had any experiences like yours, but I'd love to go into medical school, and use that to help people. 

It kills me that as I type this on a laptop, with my backpack full of books at my feet, surrounded by books and shoes and pictures and clothes and schoolwork, a child is starving, a person is dying from something so preventable, someone is in pain, a child is not going to school, a girl is being beaten....

qwerty42 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 17, 2010 at 5:11 pm
i've lived in a 3rd world country before, and i completely sympathise. this is just one example of how America is so blessed, and yet we often seem to take our wealth for granted.
Lost-In-Life said...
May 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm
I have not had as vivid an experience as you, but I definitely feel the same way. This a great, well-written article and I'm so glad you posted it on Teen-Ink. Keep writing!
Grasshopper007 said...
Apr. 25, 2010 at 11:08 am
I agree with you
dancer13 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 3, 2010 at 4:28 pm
This is truly amazing work that you're doing. I'm glad that people see the need to do work like concern with mission trips is that they also serve to convert others (usually to Christianity), and sometimes I wonder if that's necessarily the best way to do service... replied...
May 17, 2010 at 8:50 pm
I agree.  I'm agnostic, and it sort of gets on my nerves when people try to force their religion on others, even if they're doing fantastic things in the process.
dancer13 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 18, 2010 at 7:34 am
Exactly! :) Glad to know there are people who think like me out there.
SMED_Lim said...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm
This is the author speaking - and I am so grateful for all your great comments! I am thankful that my work (albeit imperfect) was able to bring so much discussion to the table. If my words were able to touch another, then that is all that I need to know - that there are others who empathize and understand my dreams. God bless, and I wish all of you the best in all your endeavors.
NoLabelsPlease replied...
Jun. 8, 2010 at 12:48 pm
You have accomplished your goals with this article. I would like to thank you. You've given me hope!
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