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  • Katherine Sirvio

Where Do You Draw The Line?


My husband and I traveled to an island off the coast of Belize called Ambergris Caye. It is a long and narrow island with one main town called San Pedro and one very small airport for those fortunate enough to pass on the ferry boat. The city is quaint, filled with colorful buildings, aspiring businesses, and lovely people. We quickly established our favorite restaurants, hangouts, and friends. We were folded into the mix right away, which prompted us to return a few years later when my in-laws announced they were going to visit for a few months. We never get to spend enough time with family.

open water view

​To be honest, I have a hard time remembering which activities we did on each trip. But in the end it doesn't matter, we visited two times and enjoyed them both.We did some of the tourist attractions, such as diving and snorkeling along the second largest coral reef in the world. I held a nurse shark, for no good reason I might add. We saw a garden of sea snakes on one dive and thought deeply (pun intended, LOL) about the Blue Hole, but decided against it. (The Blue Hole is an enormous sink hole in the ocean.) We explored the island, which at that time was mostly dirt roads, especially north of the bridge. I understand, that they are paved now. We enjoyed the yoga retreat, even though we never did any yoga... We laughed at the Palapa Bar as drinks were lowered down to customers lounging in inner tubes in the clear waters. We bought tamales from a little old woman selling them out the window of her front room for lunch. We sat for hours watching the water, reading, talking and witnessing the daily life of the Belizian people go by. Dogs come and go, children return from school in their uniforms and tourists sun bath and boat. It is definitely a slower life, but it is still life.

guests at the Palapa Bar

walking home from school

One evening, we decided to go to dinner at Wild Mangoes. This restaurant was a favorite of my in-laws and quickly became a favorite of mine as well. The ceviche (several types to choose from) was spot on delicious! We enjoyed dinner ocean side and watched as the sun quietly disappeared into the distance. The restaurant was decorated with colorful old buoys hanging from the ceiling and colorful walls and artwork in a patchwork reminiscent of the Caribbean. When we finished dinner, we headed out to our golf cart which was the main means of getting around on the island. It was fun, you always felt a part of the environment rather than protected from it. The cart was older but ran well. It had two seats facing forward for the driver and a passenger and then a bench seat facing backward where you could place your groceries or additional passengers. It had a flat roof with a small ditch around the perimeter that would catch the rain if it was not too heavy. But after the rain, there was always a swoosh of water that ran over the sides as we went around a corner. Someone would get wet. But the rain was very rare there, not like in other tropical places where every afternoon at 3:00 it would sprinkle for 20 minutes and then make way for a comfortable evening. Anyway, once again I digress. As we approached our golf cart a young man stopped us and asked for money.

He was probably in his late 20's or early 30's, he was a slim man and wore a white printed shirt and blue jean shorts with high top tennis shoes and knee socks that ran halfway up his calf. We said no, and kept walking trying not to make too much contact. That is what we typically do, politely say no and keep on going. He pleaded with us that he needed money to buy milk and cereal for his children. My husband is not one to interfere once I start down a particular path, he just kind of watches to see what will happen for a bit. I was torn, so, I told the young man, I would not give him money, but I would buy him the milk and cereal for his kids. My husband shrugged. In my mind, I am thinking a 1/2 gallon of milk and some Cheerios. Maybe this would total $10 maximum, he would have milk and cereal for his children and I would feel good that I helped out. Done.

So we met this young man at the corner grocer and went inside. The clerk standing behind the register is watching closely, I can see that from the start. The young man walks in and straight to the back of the store, I wait at the counter. I had gotten $10 out and placed it on the counter and we all three watched as the young man came back. My husband, the clerk and I all had wide eyes. He arrived at the counter with an $80 container of dry formula for babies. I said, 'I am not buying that'. He said 'you told me you would'. I said 'no, I told you I would buy milk and cereal' He said 'this is'. I said 'no' again and he tried to grab the $10 off the counter and tell me he would just take this money instead. I said 'no' and grabbed the money back. The clerk is in total dismay and my husband wasn't sure what to say or do. The question is, where do you draw the line? Eventually, the young man stormed out with cereal and milk. The clerk asked me what in the world I was doing and told me that he was just going out to sell them for any amount of money he could get and then go to buy drugs. I felt stupid and taken. My simple plan was not so simple and I definitely did not feel good.

It is so difficult to try and help without judgment, to know when you are doing the right thing and when you are doing the wrong thing. I am not trained in any type of professional means to understand the thinking or logic or situations that leave people begging for anything. All over Detroit, I see people standing or sitting on the street corners with signs asking for money while they smoke or talk on their mobile phones. I can't help but be judgemental. I am human. They look able bodied, but perhaps it is the mind that is not able. I have no idea and am at a loss for what to do. Where do you draw the line? So instead of judging these souls, as it is so easy to make assumptions, I have decided I will give individuals no more. I will only donate to institutions that have trained professionals to deal with these situations. And then I will thank my lucky stars that I am on the good side of the donation.

I seem to attract the undesired circumstances that I find myself in. I myself an undecided soul. I always have good intentions, but find myself - well you know. As for Belize, Ambergris Caye, it is safe and beautiful. You should go and enjoy the waters teaming with life, the friendly people and the slow life.

Pelican on a post

The golf cart and colorful buildings

Downtown San Pedro

Slow life


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