Gold was everywhere: the buildings, the parks, the people. Everything possessed an aura that was unquestionably golden. That was what I noticed the moment I stepped from the dim yellow lights of the airplane into the night-time brilliance that was London. Even in the harsh fluorescence that pervades every city in the evenings, London had its golden glow.
This was by far the most foreign thing I had encountered in all my travels to multiple continents. Never before had I stepped from a hotel, in this case a grandiose mass of stone called The Royal Park, and been shocked the moment my foot hit the pavement.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Every person greeted me with a smile or nod as they strode purposefully around, and every building, no matter how humble, had some touch of beauty – a window garden, a bird house, a child peeping around the door. The more I saw, the more awed I became by golden London.
When Big Ben sang its seven chimes and daylight began to fade, I cut my explorations short to revel in the gold of Hyde Park. I’d come from the subways known as the Tube and was greatly anticipating having my personal space again. Immaculate though it was, the Tube’s Piccadilly train was nonetheless confining. I’d been forced to become rather intimate with feuding tourists that sought to make their grievances as audible as possible. I was eager to leave.
Heady with glee at my escape, I hurried from Hyde Park Corner station and into the park. Drinking in the sight of acres of roses, I decided my day hadn’t been ruined by the bickerers. I let the fragrance surround me and everything faded from my senses but the Rose Gardens. More than willing to relax, I wandered from bush to bush sniffing the delicate flowers.
I did not realize I had company until a hand brushed against mine. Startled from my reverie, I looked up. A petite, elegant old lady met my gaze with smiling eyes.
“My dear,” she spoke, gently tugging me to a seat on a nearby bench “is there something the matter? I saw you walking with the most perturbed look on your face. You must be an American. You fellows are always so high strung!” she stared at me, awaiting my reply.
Ignoring my discomfort at being confronted by a stranger, I answered. “Well, I was on my way home, and then these guys were…” I trailed off, looking back at my companion. How could I complain about selfish bickerers when I was disrupting this lady with my own selfish complaining? Now I understood; I had found the yellow brick road.
London was golden because of its humanity. Forced to consider my actions, I realized that this humanity was what was missing from me, my country, and the world. Rather than the selfish view of humanity that I carried, these Londoners believed in the dignity of humanity. London was a place where dignity was not something to show off or earn, but a way of life that belonged to every person, place, or thing. This was London’s true gold.
Thanking the lady, I stood up and returned to The Royal Park Hotel. I was heading back to the States the next day, but I could not bring myself to regret. I had studied the Houses of Parliament, walked Buckingham Palace, soared with the London Eye, gawked at the Tower of London, and paddled the Thames, but I needed to leave. I had found the yellow brick road of dignity and I was going to share it.