“My wife and I pick up bottles and cans along this road. Back then it was very hard for everyone with my color of skin. I have lived on this street for 62 years, and I was here when Mr. King lived here. I marched up and down this street with him, helping him support the cause of equal rights for everyone,” explained the old ravaged man. There I was, standing on the sidewalk in the ghetto in Atlanta, talking to a ragged, aged man standing just over five and a half feet tall, cataracts in his eyes, and rough, dark skin. He told me his life story and how it had affected him. This eye opening experience helped to change my view about how hard it really was for colored people in the 1960s. Encountering this man helped to inspire my goal of one day seeing the world.
A few weeks before the beginning of my senior year of high school, my dad and I flew to Atlanta, Georgia. He had a business class, and I was left to tour the city alone. The second day of my excursion, I rode the bus, and then the train, to the outskirts of downtown Atlanta. I was about half a mile from the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the only obstacle between my destination and I was the ghetto. Being a white, 18 year old high school senior, from a much smaller city, this was a very intimidating experience. However, I made it to the site without any problems. Once there, I relished in the history and story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. Then, I headed back through the ghetto to the train station, which ended up being a walk that I would never forget.
As I walked down the dirty, run-down sidewalks, I was stopped by a very old man hobbling along beside me. He looked as if his life had been harder than anything that I could imagine. His hair was uncombed, and his clothes were a mess, but he still held himself with an immense amount of self-respect. This is when he told me the shortened story of his life. It made me realize and respect how hard life once was for him. Thinking about this man’s life and how easy mine is in comparison, I began to understand that traveling, meeting new people, and seeing the world were my passions.
By the time I turned 16, I had realized that seeing the world was what I have always wanted to do. I now have a goal to visit six of the seven continents, and to visit all of the 50 states in America before I die. Through my traveling experiences, I have come to know that everything and everyone are not as they first appear. The colored man seemed crude and slightly scary at first, but he ended up being one of the nicest people I have ever met. He taught me not to judge people by their looks. I will always remember the kind old man, and I’m now able to say that I’ve walked beside a man who lived and walked beside the great Martin Luther King Jr.
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