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Teen Voice: DC trip offered a spectrum of humanity
August 19, 2016 Faith Reisig   

Read more by Faith Reisig
Last week I took a family vacation to Washington D.C. ďDisneyland for history nerds,Ē my dad calls it. As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I was beyond excited to see all the places I had read about, from Fords Theater to the Air and Space Museum. Iíd gone through a guide book on the city multiple times, reading up on everywhere we planned to visit and then doing even more research online. I was ready for anything. Or, so I thought.

The first minor disaster oc-curred after landing in the city and taking a taxi to our hotel. When mom tried to check in, it became evident that we did not have a reservation. A few phone calls later, we realized that we had booked a different hotel. Not only did this mean we would lose time transferring to the other location, but we had based our entire trip around being at the initial site.

After taking another taxi to the other hotel, we got checked in and unpacked, finally ready to get started with our trip. However, because of the confusion we had lost our chance to visit the White House. We did get to see a museum that night, due to the Smithsonianís summer hours, but it was not the ideal start to a vacation I had hoped would be perfect.

One thing struck me as disjointed from the rest of the city. Between towering marble pillars and beautiful frescos people were sleeping on the ground, sitting on corners asking for money, or pushing everything they own on a shopping cart. In the nationís capital it was a reminder of the ways we have failed as a country.

Of course, Iíve been to cities before. Iíve seen homeless people. But Iíve never been able to get used to it. I have a home, a family, and plenty to eat. The reality is I canít understand what life is like for people who donít.

In fact, I can barely look at them. While walking past a homeless person I turn my face in the opposite direction. Am I afraid of what Iíll see in their eyes? Do I want to give them privacy or just give myself the option to ignore them? Am I ashamed that I canít help?
Because, the truth is, I canít help. If I gave every person with a cup or a sign even one dollar Iíd pretty soon be out of money and wouldnít have changed anything. Even if I gave everything I had to one person, what would that do? There would still be thousands of people who need help, and the system would still be broken.

Itís easier to imagine that problems like that donít exist in Scotts Bluff County. But that isnít true. Few things make me as sad as volunteering at the local soup kitchen, simply because need is so evident, even in my home town. People are hurting and I donít know how to help. So, I ignore the problem. I turn away, hoping that someday Iíll be able to fix the system. I justify not helping. And maybe sometime I will be numb to the homeless people I pass. Looking away will no longer be a choice, but a habit.

Or maybe instead I can meet the eyes of the next person I see whoís asking for help buying food. Maybe I can give them something, a few quarters or a warm meal. Maybe Iíll be able to see someone sitting on the street and see them as a person, not a problem. Maybe that is the only way to fix the system.

But that option starts with taking accountability for my own actions. Knowing that it is my choice to look away when I see someone in need. Maybe change is just as simple as looking at someone instead of looking through them.

The rest of our time in D.C. was everything I hoped it would be. We saw monuments, museums, and buildings I have always wanted to go to. It is a beautiful city, full of important places and things to see. While we never did go to the White House, we walked past a few times. And we got lost one night while looking for the MLK memorial, another attraction I never got to see. On the whole, the trip was a success. The days flew by and, before long, I was pack- ing my suitcase for the flight home.

Our flight back to Denver was not until the afternoon, so we spent a final morning in D.C. visiting one last museum before heading to the airport. The weather had been a little bit weird all morning, hot and drier than usual, but I thought nothing of it until we left the museum and headed back to the hotel. During our walk it began to rain. At first just a drizzle, but it got increasingly heavy until our clothes were soaking wet and we were miserable. Luckily, we had time to change into dry clothes at the hotel before going to the airport.

The rain delayed our flight for about two hours. That meant that by the time we landed in Columbus, Ohio, we had missed our connecting flight to Denver and were stranded there until 4:00 the next afternoon.

At that point, we were having an adventure. After the umpteenth phone call, we found a hotel with a vacancy and, after another round of phone calls, secured a rental car. Tired, sore, and hungry we went to a waffle house to eat. I tried grits for the first time, stole bites of my sisterís hashbrowns, and before long was feeling much better.

The next day we set off to enjoy our first time in Ohio. After driving around the campus of The Ohio State University we went to Short North, an artsy district near the college. Our first stop was an antique store with an abundance of hats, dresses, and shoes from the Ď60s. My parents discovered a record collection in the basement while I oohed and ahhed over scarves.

After a few more stops and lunch at a place that served exclusively grilled cheese it was already time to leave. What had started as an annoyance had become a chance to stretch my horizons and discover a new place. While not all misadventures turn out so well, this one was highly enjoyable. I didnít get the perfect vacation I wanted, but I learned that sometimes itís better to just make the best of what you have.

Editorís note: Faith Reisig is a junior in Choices, an alternative education program at Scottsbluff High School.
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