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Eyes of a Passerby This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Clink.My coins fall among a few others in the frayed hat. "Gracias,señorita," replied the beggar.

"Come take apicture!" called my father. I turned and posed just as my father captured apicture of me and my family.

Today I sat on my bed looking through thesepictures of my trip to Spain. Suddenly I realized something about one of myfavorites, the one of my mother, brother, uncle and me on the street in thecenter of Barcelona. I had always only seen us, but in the background was thesmall man in rags. His shoes were worn, his clothes tattered, and a scragglylittle dog accompanied him. They both sat on a torn blanket, my pesos lying infront of them.

There were many beggars in Spain, but most were miming ordoing something to get people's attention to accumulate small piles of coins. Butthis man looked so old and worn out, as if he'd been a beggar all his life. Themost striking thing is that in the photo, the man is staring straight into ourcamera, as if posing. He watched us with such intent eyes that seemed to warn usnever to give up hope on our lives - or risk ending up beggarsourselves.

It was as if he wanted us to remember him. I can't help butwonder why that man was (and maybe still is) there. Why does he have nothing butan old dog to call his own? Now that I think about it, there were beggars allaround me in Spain. Many memories of the sound of my coins dropping in front ofthe unfortunate wash over me now.

There was the veiled woman withpleading eyes who sat in front of the cathedral with a sign I could not read.When my uncle translated it for me, I learned she had three children and no moneyto feed them. This woman had an impact on me when I was there, but as soon as Igot home, I forgot about her - until now. I forgot the relief in her eyes when Idropped pesos in her basket. I had also forgotten the indifferent hopelessness inmany others' eyes.

Where I went for a glorious vacation is somepeople's hell on earth; a place where every morning some wake up to beg. Maybe afew are taking the "easy" way out, begging even though they could get ajob. But what about the others, the ones without good clothes, good food, oranything to call their own? Now I realize how sheltered I am from all this. WhereI live, most can afford schooling, good food and a roof over theirheads.

How many times have I changed the channel when poverty-strickenchildren appear on television? I am not only sheltered, I'm practically immune tothe plight of others. When I first saw the abundance of homelessness in Spain, Iwas shocked. But as the week passed, I became almost used to it.

Iremember a shirtless man who just lay on the ground, his eyes as empty as thebattered tin cup in front of him. One of his arms was stunted and he had a largehump on his back. Most people passed the grotesque sight without a glance. But I,an over-privileged girl from the suburbs, emptied my pockets into that tin, wentback to the warm bed of my Spanish townhouse that night, and cried.

Iwept for the man with the little scraggly dog, the woman with no money to feedher children, the man with the twisted body, the pain of all those people. I havenever gone a night without a full stomach, have always had a warm bed, and alwaysdreaded going to school every Monday morning. I've always had a doctor to run toat the slightest ache, and have never had to worry whether enough people wouldempty their pockets into my hat.

Then I gulped in air and stoppedsuddenly. I felt guilt - terrible, overwhelming guilt. Almost worse than my pityfor the homeless was the shame I felt for crying for them. They had to go throughmuch worse every day, and I was crying over something I had only seen. I felthelpless to their dilemma because I did not know what to do, yet I felt obligatedto do something, even if it was only to drop small change in front of as manyhopeless eyes as I could.






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Copyright 2006 by Teen Ink, The 21st Century and The Young Authors Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.
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This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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