Saturday, August 1, 2009

A New Perspective

When most of us, including myself, see a movie like Hotel Rwanda or Slumdog Millionaire; watch a news story about an earthquake in another country that may have killed thousands and displaced tens of thousands more or the devastation of the 2004 Asian tsunami; or when we view a program about the poverty and despair in parts of Africa, how do we feel and how do we react? At best, we may think just for a few minutes how horrible it must be to be affected by such an event or how impossible living through such a situation must be. But as quickly as those thoughts emerge, they disappear. The fact is, most of us have never experienced anything close to the magnitude of this level of tragedy, desperation or despair. It is simply unimaginable, and incomprehensible to us and understandably so. We often almost subconsciously deny in a way, the fact that the event or scenario is even reality. As a result, such scenes in truth-based movies or horrific news stories are easily dismissed as we quickly go back to our own reality, to our own way of life, our own struggles. This, I am not comfortable with and is one of the compelling reasons to go on the journey I am about to make.

Toddlers sleeping alone on busy street curbs, just feet from the traffic rushing by, children that should be playing or in school, instead begging passersby for money, kids digging through trash cans in the rail station that they call home in the hopes of finding anything of value. Girls sold into the sex trade at age 12. Living conditions for millions of children and adults consist of a propped up piece of tin as a shelter, no running water and a ditch running down the street that serves as a bathroom. These are realities I will likely see within the first hours of arriving in India. Although I realize that, it is still hard to truly grasp. I think that to see such a different environment, such a different way of life, such a different kind of struggle than we face every day, is important and will impart an ability to view the world in a different light: To truly understand a little better the struggles that so many people go through.

I am not referring to a need to put my life into perspective, or to make me feel better about my surroundings. It’s also not about returning home and feeling guilty for what I have. Although I will undoubtedly benefit from this experience, this is not simply a self-serving excursion. There are a lot of things both in our communities as well as in our world that we can affect, even in just a small way. The more we understand, the more we have experienced and the broader views we develop, the better enabled we are to both comprehend and influence the world in which we live. I expect to return with both this new found perspective, but also knowing I have made a difference in the well being of a child’s life.

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