Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Another World

This past weekend I took a trolley ride from downtown San Diego to Tijuana, a trip that made me grateful for the life I live.

Afterward, I reminded myself that in some ways I lead a sheltered life, even though I'm in the recovery business and work with a challenged population.

Although the trolley snaked through some expensive Southern California real estate, most of the riders appeared to be economically challenged.

Many wore mismatched thrift store wardrobes. Others struggled with obvious substance abuse or mental health issues - either talking super-fast, or rambling about nothing to no one in particular.

A mentally challenged man became verbally abusive to my wife and me until she finally lost patience with him. A few select words from her and he made a quick retreat to the far end of the train.

Once we crossed the border and entered downtown Tijuana the differences between the world I live in the one I was visiting stood out even more.

Squatted amidst the trash along the sidewalks were native women, covered in paper-thin dirty blankets, holding empty cups, begging for coins with their eyes. An unidentifiable odor swirled in the air, maybe a blend of cooking food, sweat, urine, and exhaust fumes – hard to tell.

Vendors were hawking cheap gewgaws out of stalls. Others were trying to persuade tourists to have their pictures taken atop ragged donkeys painted to look like miniature zebras.

Scenes like this remind me that much of the world – especially the third world – spends a lot of time scrounging and hustling to feed and house themselves.

The visit was a dose of reality that added to my gratitude for what God has provided.