Things Are Not So Bad After All

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at
Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at
After my dad died and we were cleaning out his apartment I noticed that the newspaper clipping that he had taped to his wall was still there.  It had been there about five years and it was such a fixture that I had hardly noticed it all these years.  But I did now.  I remember when I first saw it I asked him why he would put up a newspaper article such as this on his wall.  He told me that when he would start to feel sorry for himself that he would read it.  And it would remind him that he didn’t have it so bad after all. 

No one wanted this yellowed and slightly ripped piece of paper but me.  Of all my dad’s possessions, of which he had few, this to me was the most valuable. Since the day I inherited this newspaper article I have never forgotten the reason behind my dad wanting to keep it. And when I find myself starting to think that things in my life couldn’t get any worse, I take out this newspaper article that has been carefully put away. And as I read it I can hear my dad’s voice whisper in my ear, “Things are not so bad after all.”

Please note that this newspaper article is NOT my work and I take no credit for it.

A newspaper clipping from The Boston Herald, July 28, 1990 reads:

Tijuana dump site haunting
By Bill O’Reilly
The Tijuana sun is warm and the garbage dump I am standing in is aromatic, to say the least.  The dump is home to scores of children, little kids who live and work here because they are desperately poor.

The kids are cute but today many of them are bleeding.  That’s because they dig glass out of the dirt and sell the glass to a recycling plant.  The children do this every day because if they don’t do it they will not eat.  And when you dig broken glass you get cut.

There is no welfare, food stamps, or unemployment insurance.  Many of these children have been abandoned by their fathers and now live with their mothers in shacks directly in the garbage dump.  You expect scenes like this in India and Africa but not five miles from the United States border.

The U.S. government sends aid to Mexico, but the money does not find its way here.  In fact there is no one helping the glass digging children except David Lynch.

Lynch introduces me to Elena, who is 4 years old and covered with filth.  She proudly shows me the small pile of glass she has collected and then counts to 10 in English.  She is proud again and beams.  Lynch is teaching Elena and other boys and girls to speak English because if they can master our language, they can get a job and get out of the dump.  Lynch has been doing this for seven years.  He gave up a nice comfortable home in America and now lives in the dump with the people he helps.

He is 38 years old and much more of a man than I.

Lynch depends on private donations to survive, so I finish shooting my television story on the children, give him some money and say goodbye.  As I cross the border I know I will keep in touch with Lynch because I’ll never forget the faces of his kids.

Some 24 hours later I am in Los Angeles eating at the Spago restaurant, the current favorite of Hollywood stars.  A small pizza at Spago costs $17, enough money to feed little Elena for a month.  At nearby tables are Kirk Douglas, Ali McGraw and Walter Matthau.  But I am still haunted by Elena and her friends.

I try to steer the conversation at my table around to the Tijuana dump.  It doesn’t fly.  Way too depressing for Spago’s, a place of wealth and glamour.  I understand.  But I am unsettled, nevertheless.

Poverty has always been with us but visiting these two extremes in such a short period of time has definitely shaken me.  Why does a beautiful 4-year-old girl have to live in garbage, while others live in splendor?  I don’t know.  And that bothers me.  A lot.



  1. You made me cry. I remember the day I was driving across El Salvador, and was suddenly pulled over as five young man with big guns pointed their guns at us. With my broken spanish and their broken English I figured out that I was violating curfew and they were going to take me prisoner until sunrise. Guess where they took me? To a garbage dumb, a night I will never forget, and a scene that will haunt me forever. Your article not only reminded me of that night, but also I can see those little kids in the dumpster, and if I try to adopt one of the, guess what, The Mexican Gov will make it so difficult, that I wouldnt be able to do it. 😦 Things are not so bad after All:) thank you so much for this great way that you presented it.

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