So I never expected to be nearly harassed by a belligerent man in Starbucks (of all places), nor did I expect to be saved by two complete strangers who pretended to know me and had me come sit with them so that he would leave me alone.
A nice pair of people. A man and a woman. Stirring up a nice bout of conversation. They begin to speak about Haiti. The woman is from Haiti, born native, and the man is asking if she will return soon.
I am sitting stunned and paralyzed, I have stumbled into a conversation about a country that I am applying to go to in the next several months. I tell the woman this and she doubles me over with a look.
“You, oh no, not you,” she said. “You are a pretty, bright-eyed white girl, you will never be seen again.”
Of course the further into this conversation I get, the more afraid I become. Naturally. This woman is telling me all the awful things that would happen to me straight off the plane. I am listening but I am softly crying in my head. I have labored over this application, mulled over this decision, and now I am basically dead before getting off the plane.
“You want to help people? Skip on down to a hospital down the street, I am sure they need your help.”
I know it is a sad and scary world. I know this is not a vacation spot. I hear it on a daily basis, why do you want to go there? Of all places.
My replies: Life is not meant to be easy. I was not made to be stuffed into a tiny little box with a tiny little world view. I want to see how 75% of the world’s population lives, because it is certainly not in the manner that we do.
But how do we change the world when everyone is barking at us that it cannot be done?
For one, we stop believing people right then and there. The world is big and large and every other adjective that could boost up the size of this planet. Other places, other developing worlds, are exposed to danger and violence and war on a daily basis. We sit comfortably saying, don’t go over there, help in your own country. I say, well they cannot come over here, we never gave them that option. So. Watch. Me. Go. To. Them.
The most irritating, skin-scratching thing for me (besides hiccups, which I absolutely hate) is when people try to say that one cannot make a difference. If one cannot make a difference then why are we even here? Were we meant to come into this world thinking, ho hum I will never do anything in my life except “be.”
No, I think we were meant to fill our lives with verbs– helping, sharing, loving, finding, searching, understanding. And we cannot do it in a 1X1 space.
So although it hurt me to hear these things and to think for a second that I should not be doing all that I am doing, to think that it really might not make a difference, I am proving myself wrong. Maybe my service next year will still be Haiti, perhaps South Africa, or maybe domestic. But there will be serving.
What I do with my life will be a difference to someone else. I will make sure of this. So they say I cannot change the world. But I can change worlds. I can step into the lives of others and I can change them. And as each person shifts, the world will shift as well. Yes, yes, I believe I have found a starting point.
And as promised by a few of you, and I will shortly make a page to accomodate this, I am leaving you with a book from my winter reading list. Largely inspiring my post today, Little Bee has opened my eyes to a lot of things: humanity, globalization, the mere fact that we are really not all that different. A story of two worlds merged into one, two women fumbling through a past that is not pleasing to the eye, two worlds becoming one story. Written by Chris Cleave, I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a change in perspective and that push to make the difference. Let me know what you think.
“You live in a world of machines and you dream of things with beating hearts. We dream of machines, beace we see where beating hearts have left us.”