I stepped off my air conditioned sanctuary and was immediately engulfed in the heat and sweat of my fellow passengers. It was crowded where I stood but on the island opposite the trees swayed with the breeze, undisturbed and unaware of the tourists who would soon populate below them. My first thought as we sailed toward the island was that it was beautiful, but I would soon discover the issues hidden beneath the palm trees.
I took in the new surroundings with ease and soon after, my expedition began. My family had already straddled their ATV’s when I joined them. The engine’s steam drifted behind us as we left the cold waves. Deeper into the trees we traveled and as we did so the poverty of the country revealed itself. I looked at the beggar to my left, his ribs almost tearing through the blistered skin that covered them. Others looked also; looked at the man that may soon die, but no one stopped. They all passed him without a second thought. Questions flooded my head and I soon discovered that I had slowed so much other adventurer’s were yelling for me to move on. Right after the man had vanished I saw another starved; a mule, whose matted hair stuck to the pronounced bones underneath. The animal watched as we passed, the sorrow in its eyes gleaming in the scorching day. More and more houses surrounded us, small and boarded up as they were the families that did not beg like the man before, they simply watched the more fortunate pass, loathe radiating from their pores.
My thoughts strayed to my home back in Minnesota. I thought of my lawn, large and plentiful. I thought of my room, scattered with clothes and technology so far out of others reach. I thought of the food I eat, healthy and always there. And when I looked back at the starving souls I thought of the meals they would miss, the life they would never have. I saw a glimpse of what could have been for me and my family and shame washed over me faster than I had expected. I took so much for granted and now all I wanted to do was give it away, just give everything away. But before I could muster up the courage to voice my yearnings we had stopped. The waterfall ahead didn’t seem picturesque anymore. It no longer intrigued me; on the contrary I felt disgusted for I knew the reality of the island surrounding it. Many others ran onward, following the natives up to the top of the pouring water where they would jump in to the waves below. But, being preoccupied with my thoughts as I was, I decided it fitting to walk through the water letting the fish bite my toes. I tried to think of an upside to living here, the land was scenic and so was the water but when I looked down at the fish appetizing on my flesh the water seemed to have transformed into a murky green, the air was now heavy and filled with parasites. It was no longer wondrous. It was a trap of despair and I just wanted to go home.
I hope as you travel through life you recognize the beauty in your own home and others as well. I also hope everyone remembers to speak for those who are silenced and to listen to those who have something important to say.
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