It was during my first drive back through the villages in Croatia that I noticed a grayer country than I remembered. Often you will be in and out of a village in 2 minutes flat, having noticed very little difference between each house you pass on the only road the village has ever seen. The bland houses, the muddy driveways, the smoke from burning trash or leaves and the seldom smiling faces are striking in their absence of color.
And all it takes is sitting in a prayer meeting to realize that this appearance isn't only skin deep. There are medical conditions, little money in the bank and fear when both are combined. Many women are abused, taken advantage of, or left. And plenty of men drink their family's money away. I've grieved more in my week back then I did in my 3 months in America.
But for every story I've heard here, for every abused wife, every hospital visit, every child's death - is it really that different?
Many of the newer buildings in Croatian cities are colorful. You'll drive past an old neighborhood when suddenly a bright orange house with fluorescent green shutters stings the eyes. Even in good taste, the colorful buildings can be blinding next to the houses that have surrendered to the status-quo. It's obvious that there are a select few citizens who want to brighten the place up.
Kind of like America. We have lights. We have entertainment. We have big colorful cars and houses and clothes. Our citizens usually wear a smile and a 'hi, how are ya'. We are as colorful as the melting pot we're known for. Nothing wrong with that.
But it doesn't mean that as a whole we're any less burdened, sick, abused or broken. It just appears that way.