The things that go unnoticed

By Gloria Rodriguez

Teens complain about how much they hate the government in the United States. We criticize the rules and laws. I’m sure I have plenty of times too. We complain about not having enough freedom, such as driving at a young age, or not being able to buy cigarettes until the age of 18. We look at all the things we don’t like, but the benefits go unnoticed. Instead, we should also see the positive effects of our government and the laws. Over the summer, I had several experiences that made me change my way of thinking.
During my summer vacation, my family and I went to Charlotte for a couple of days. My grandma lived in Charlotte until she passed away seven years ago. She was originally from Cuba, and that  night we sat in the living room talking about Cuba’s dictatorship. People in Cuba don’t have the freedom that we have. Children in Cuba don’t even go to school. We as teens complain about the law here? What a joke; we wouldn’t survive a day in Cuba. I don’t think I have ever been to a store where they limit how many things I can buy; to the contrary, I am sure the store would like me to buy way more. I don’t understand how big families do it. Imagine if you had a big family you had to feed. You can’t just feed half of the people in your family and let the others starve.
Teens should more often think about people around the world who have it worse than us. We are very fortunate to live in a country where we have freedom and opportunities.
My best friend Lisa moved to Mexico almost four years ago. She lives in Monterrey, a city so full of violence, death is not shocking anymore. On August 25 two dozen gunmen burst into a casino, doused it with gasoline and started a fire that trapped gamblers inside, killing at least 53 people and injuring a dozen more. I had seen news about it, but didn’t pay too much attention because I do not live there. This summer Lisa came on a two-week vacation. On our way back from the airport she told me about how terrible it is living in Monterrey. She has experienced many shootings and the violence is incredible.
One of the worst experiences she has had in Monterrey happened a week before her vacation. There was a shooting in front of her house and the only survivor was a baby girl. As she describes this, I’m thinking, “Where is the law?” We should appreciate the fact that experiences like those don’t happen frequently here.
While she was here all she wanted to do was walk to every place in town. Everyday we went somewhere new, but she didn’t want to drive; she preferred walking. One day I asked her why she wanted to walk instead of ride in a car. She told me that she felt safe walking through these streets; she didn’t feel threatened or have fear here. I never even imagined anyone would be frightened to walk around in their own country. It made me realize that even the smallest things like that are important.
I also learned that in Mexico you have to apply to attend high school. It is kind of like applying for college, except your grades are the only factor that count towards admission. Lisa applied to two of the best schools, but got into neither. Instead she got put into another school, which she didn’t want to go to. She talked to me about how that school was wild. Students did drugs, got in fights, were very undisciplined and didn’t want to go there. Seeing her cry because she didn’t get in the school she wanted actually made me feel guilty. She made me feel thankful for attending such a good school, a school where even if I don’t always agree with the rules, I know it will always help us be better and grow.