Screw Disneyworld: this year, Hair Balls is forgoing the traditional theme park experience to explore the sights and sounds of abject third world poverty at Houston Baptist University November 14-17.
Yep, that's right: a traveling interactive exhibit by Compassion International, which touts itself as "the world's largest Christian child development organization," allows folks to "experience the reality of children living in poverty," by following a proxy pauper "from hardship to hope." The exhibit "allows you to step into the life of a child who has suffered under the crippling weight of poverty." (Afterwards, we're going to step into the Golden Corral for some fried chicken and banana pudding, 'cause nothing works up an appetite like pretending to be sunken-eyed-impoverished for half an hour).
Hair Balls doesn't understand these ministry-sponsored experiments in faux famine and hardship that pop up like blisters every year around the holidays. We find it patronizing and offensive to think that a person can understand one iota -- yes, iota -- of the struggle these people endure on a second-by-second basis by playing make-believe between bouts of gorging on corn dogs and watching Honey Boo Boo on the plasma.
But hey, maybe there's something to it. Compassion's website includes a testimonial by an exhibit-goer who says "I had high hopes, and it exceeded them." What? What exactly were his "high hopes"? That he was going to see a buzzard chilling beside one of those bag-of-bones-babies who had to crawl for miles for Red Cross rice? He says this while standing in front of a display shelf labeled "Central America," and lined with what appear to be photos of starving kids whose squalor apparently leaped the high bar he had set for them.
We're not entirely sure if these kids need our understanding. Sure, we could spend the next six months gathering our drinking water from the same turgid pond where the yaks bathe, but it probably wouldn't help as much as we'd like to believe. Our money would probably do a bit more than indulging in poverty porn. We don't have to steer self-righteously through a pre-fab approximation of wretchedness before opening our wallets.
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But hey, that's just us. Don't let us spoil what might be a real swell time for the whole family. As for us, we're going back to the buffet for seconds.