Coming to Understand and Appreciate Privilege

aa

My parents at my University graduation ceremony. Connecticut, United States

One of the most valuable lessons I have come to learn in the short 23 years I have lived in the world is that there is no location on this entire planet that doesn’t have something special to offer. Whether its a combination of magical colors that take up the sky during a sunset or just one person that brings a smile to your face for just a moment, every place has its quirks and its attractions–no matter how miniscule. I found that coming to this realization requires three fundamental abilities: possessing the ability to see beauty in even the ugliest things, to have a divine appreciation for all of the wonderful things that surround you at any given moment, and most importantly, having the ability to make the best of whatever situation you’ve been placed in, even if it’s incredibly unfortunate. Of course you can shake your head and disagree because not everyone has the mentality to think in this way. But I must tell you, coming to this realization over the past few years has truly enlightened my life and I have never been happier. In fact, I couldn’t imagine it being possible to be a happier person. Even in life’s cruelest moment, I have a million things to be thankful for from the friends and family that love and support me, even if at times I feel alone, to the pristine beauty of nature’s simplest things like the trees outside or the water that keeps me alive. At times when I feel angry, sad, lost, afraid, or anything at all negative, all I have to do is remind myself how blessed I am and then I begin to feel stupid for being upset over little, unimportant things. I remind myself that I have so much to be thankful for and how fortunate my life is. For example, even just that I have the ability to see color for I am not color blind or blind, deaf, or crippled at all. From that, I can then appreciate that my eyes can see every blade of grass that lights up green, my ears can hear the sounds of instruments and voices, and I can walk, skip, hop, and run whenever and wherever I please.

ni

Children fetching water in Granada, Nicaragua.

Having the ability to understand how amazing life is and exactly how remarkable everything around me is just in its very existence, is what makes my brain explode with appreciation and true happiness. Sometimes things are so unbelievable, I can’t even fathom it. So I am living This Unfathomable Life every day, all day and I am incredibly grateful. Not just for the all the things life has to offer in general, be they big, little, simple, or intricate, but I happen to live in a special world. A world only a fraction of the global population has the capacity to understand and the resources to live in. I am part of a small global population of true privilege.

Children and young men and women running without shoes at a local track meet. Haputale, Sri Lanka

Children and young men and women running without shoes at a local track meet. Haputale, Sri Lanka

I grew up in a nice, suburban town, surrounded by a family that loves me, in a middle-class household, with shoes on my feet, food in my fridge, and a roof over my head. I went to a good public school that had an abundance of school supplies and a library full of books to be used at my disposal. You know you’ve got it good when education is the enemy at a young age and you would much rather spend your time playing outside or playing games instead. If you were one of those kids that couldn’t wait to get out of school to join your parents laboring on “take your kids to work day” in a elementary school (or even know what that is), played hookey, or pretended to be sick so you could stay home and watch TV all day, then you too, were most likely from a very privileged background. Not enough people recognize just how lucky they are for everything they have, particularly the fact that they have things like opportunities for education that many children in the world would give their left leg for. Once you whole-heartedly appreciate everything you have been given in life, then you become a happier person. Stupid things begin to matter less and less and you develop a certain ability to see beyond what you don’t have. Gratitude is key to this overwhelming existence.

1aa

Volunteering at Camillian Home for Children Living with Disabilities and HIV/AIDS where many kids were abandoned and orphaned and could not get adequate resources necessary for survival. The kids and employees here were some of the most amazing people I have ever come across. Bangkok, Thailand

1

Working with some children who had never seen a playground before. Granada, Nicaragua

This was not just something I came across in general growing as a person. This is something I learned when I left my small town in Connecticut and ventured out by myself into the great big world. I realized I was a mere speck of existence in a planet booming with a vast spectrum of life and wonders to be appreciated. And don’t get the wrong idea, I wasn’t someone that had never been grateful before. Both my parents spent a great deal of time teaching my siblings and I about appreciation and understanding how lucky we are. They also both worked their butts off to ensure that the life they provided to us was to the very best of their ability. And in that, I owe a lot of my personal growth and positive mentality to my parents who showed me these things from a young age. But there is something about being raised in a typical American culture that makes you ignore these great life lessons our mentors spend such so much time teaching us. I have never not been thankful for what I have, but I most certainly did not quite grasp just how lucky I was until I was traveling through small villages in Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar where children dragged around wooden blocks attached to a piece of string as their toy cars. And most importantly, they were completely content. They did not need remote control cars or expensive, fancy toys to satisfy their imagination. During my own childhood, and even more so nowadays, tangible toys have somehow been deemed as a vital part of childhood, rather than stressing the significance of imagination.

bur2

Children playing with toy cars in a small village in the hills. Myanmar

burma

Children working with their families in the fields instead of being in school. Myanmar

There is something incredibly humbling about traveling around the world that makes a part of me feel empathy for those who feel they need these things to keep themselves happy. In reality, the opportunities for happiness are endless and are all around you at all times. It really just depends on you and what you make of what you are seeing and experiencing. They are in every star in the sky that makes you wonder how space is even a real thing. They are in every stranger you pass by that could be your new best friend if you would just look up from your  cell phone and share a smile. They are in literally anything that heightens any one of your five senses at any moment. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how unfortunate the circumstances in my life, my life is unbelievable. This is why I spend so much of my time trying to give back to the world. Honestly, I couldn’t ask for anything more and I don’t mind living with much less. Traveling stole my heart and I don’t mind living on less than a few dollars a day at times because I am happy regardless of the tangible possessions that surround me. Furthermore, I am happy because I do what is in my power to surround myself with beautiful people, places, and experiences that make even the most boring or miserable experience something for the books. It is all about mentality. If you find yourself not satisfied with life, well get satisfied because there is an awful lot to be wowed by and grateful for, just look around. Especially if you are reading this. It means your starring at some kind of device that connects you to the rest of the world, that probably costs a great deal of money, and that a large part of the global population will never get the opportunity to use whenever they want. That means, you my friend, are also privileged…so be grateful.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s