Traveling is something that I love to do. To visit new places, see new people, taste new foods, and learn new cultures. But the trip that changed me the most wasn’t in another state or country. A museum or some type of historical site; it was in my own neighborhood. I live in Maywood, Il, right outside of Chicago. Not one of the safest neighborhoods in the world, but somehow still tightly knit. It was a day that I had planned on going downtown with friends. I was picked up from my house and we took the streets. The same ragedy streets that mess up the tires of my mom’s car.
As we were headed there I couldn’t help but be excited. We passed by the Irish Pub on the right, with tons of people smashed inside, bottles of beer lining the curb, and two women dancing near the colored lights. On the next street we passed by Ino’s pizza. They have some of the best pizza in the suburbs, and of course they were packed too. I saw children riding on bikes oblivious to the incoming traffic, people laughing as they left the restaurant, and a drunk homeless man laughing to himself on a bench about something that probably wasn’t funny. Closer to our destination I see a hair salon. The men coming out think they look so good from a fresh cut, and the women right behind them can’t stop from looking in the mirrors at their new styles, no doubt they have late-night plans with friends. Everyone seemed so happy as we passed through the neighborhood; a route I didn’t want to take since it took 3 times longer to get downtown. The time though wasn’t an issue.
Music blasted in the car as if our ears couldn’t be damaged, cameras were flashing as we took new pictures for our Facebooks, and we switched positions periodically so we weren’t so squished. All of us were content and ready to have fun. Then the scenery changes. The roads we’re on get worse. There’s this bump, bump, bump from the numerous potholes everywhere. Trees don’t seem to thrive here in this neighborhood. Buildings that were once beautiful are now falling apart. Windows partly broken, shutters falling, steps crumbling at the bottom. It’s like the mood automaticlly changed. My friend had turned the music down to take a call, and forgot to turn it back up. It was dead silence as we passed through. No one had anything to say. I didn’t see anymore children playing outside or laughing. I didn’t see people happy to be outside. Bluntly put I didn’t see happiness.
I saw an older woman sitting on her front porch in an argument with what could have been her son. Tired and worn out she just went inside the house. Ten minutes later I saw woman with her three children, forcing boxes into a two-door car. I was wondering how would they all fit inside? As the light changed and I looked at their house, I saw that big grey lock on the door that I know means they got kicked out. No one had anything to say then either. I passed by a cop arresting a boy who looked like he was my age, pants sinking to the ground, like his dignity. I felt sorry so I turned the other way. Almost out of the neighborhood and to our destination, I saw a family placing flowers on the ground. A small memorial site of bears, cards and candles was already there. I had just read about that shooting, a 17 year-old boy. One last street until we’re downtown. We pass by a gas station filled with grown men riding around on girls bikes, cigarette butts lining the floor, and a small amount of gas stalls for a suprisingly large amount of cars. My last view of the suburbs was a little girl crying in the backseat of a car. No one had anything to say still. Just a black mood for such a sunny day.
Finally downtown, the music blasts again, I can hear that camera snap, snap, snap. Voices get louder. We’re looking for a park, and my friend gets mad because someone stole her spot. I was mad too. Not because we didn’t get that park, but because there were bigger things to be angry over. All those people in that other neighborhood were so sad. It’s like how can you be so selfish? I was mad at her for that, and I didn’t say itbecause I knew she wouldn’t understand. A woman got kicked out of her house with three kids, where will she live? A kid my age is going to jail repeating a cycle of streets, jail and death. A 17 year-old is dead for no reason, and we’re mad over a park? After the downtown trip and seeing the sights, that beautiful Chicago skyline, the bustle of hundreds of people as they walk around, the noice of our waitor who almost dropped his tray of food, and the taste of my delicious chicken parmigiana from Carmine’s we leave.
When I get home I’m content with my day. But those images are still in my head. I spend so much time trying to have fun, and some people are barely making it day to day. I spent $21.00 on food and some barely have a meal daily. It makes you feel selfish. On that one long drive through MY neighborhood and MY city I realized that what you have materially doesn’t make you happy. Even though some of those people had nothing and were struggling, there were some smiles somewhere. That mother will be happy later that night when she realizes that she still has her kids. And that family will be happy when they realize that they have each other. I though it would be a bad idea to take the streets but I’m glad we did. That’s a sight I never usually see. A sight I don’t want to see again, but it’s a part of my community, and it’s something that should be changed. Everyone deserves happiness. Everyone deserves as second chance. And when we stop being so focused on I and more focused on we then people can be happy. It’s not all about me, it’s about what can I do to bring joy to someone else, if only for a minute.
That day as I was laying down I turned on my ITunes and put it on shuffle. Hero by Skillet comes on. My favorite song. It brings home that even if I had never saw what I did that day, I should spend more time devoting it to others. Volunteering at the YMCA, reading to little kids at a daycare, cleaning up around the community, helping out my older neighbors, even using my Facebook to get my friends to help me and spread the word. I love people and I love to smile and laugh. My face lights up when I do. And because of that I want everybody to feel the same way. I want to be apart of that, to help, and we all should. As I began to fall asleep I decided that maybe it woudn’t be so bad to take those same pothole filled streets again. If everybody avoided them then we would get no where. The song was going off and I just closed my eyes and took the words to heart….Who’s gonna fight for what’s right? Who’s gonna help us survive? We’re in the fight of our lives and we’re not ready to die.Who’s gonna fight for the weak? Who’s gonna make them believe? I’ve got a hero, I’ve got a hero living in me. I’m gonna fight for what’s right, today I’m speaking my mind and if it kills me tonight, I will be ready to die. A hero’s not afraid to give his life, A hero’s gonna save me just in time. I need a hero to save me now, I need a hero, save me now. I need a hero to save my life, A hero will save me just in time..
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