Although my story is not considerably phenomenal, it is unique. Because unlike most, I will not tell you a memory of greatness, but rather one of realization. When asked about your greatest journey most would relate to their trip to Europe, South America, Asia or anywhere that brings fond memories to the mind. But my greatest journey was not far, nor was it stunning. In fact, it was quite heartbreaking. My expedition began in the small town of Morrison, where me and a few classmates were on our way to The Windy City.
SEMI-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
I was excited, beyond excited. For fourteen years I’ve lived in Illinois-my entire life- and not once had I visited one of the greatest cities in America, Chicago. I’d imagined the city, sprawling with life, skyscrapers touching the clouds, art, and music filling the streets. The epitome of success. And I was going to walk through it.
It took three hours to reach the suburbs of Chicago, where its beautiful outline highlighted the distance. I could see it, and it was everything I had imagined. From a distance, I could feel wanderlust, the type of longing of those who’ve never seen a city. It wasn’t the ocean or even anything of astoundment, but it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen in my entire life. As we took the first steps onto the concrete, I could hear it, the sound of music. Just as I had imagined- sculptures filled the streets, and sound filled the airways. Simply the immense amount of people was noteworthy. The smell, the taste, the sight of this new world altered everything I thought exceptional, replacing it with this kaleidoscope of astoundment. But the thing is, the prettiest things are always in the front, it was only deeper that I truly discovered Chicago.
I’m not naive, of course there would be those who were homeless, in the city of thousands. I know nothing is truly perfect, but I am not from a town where no one knows who you are. Where I come from, everyone belongs somewhere, and those who are less fortunate, are sheltered. So the moment I saw him, everything I had ever believed turned to glass. He was disabled, blind, and helpless. There, in his wheelchair, he held a sign, which simply stated, “help me.” And at his feet lay a hat, where emptiness filled its void. I couldn’t help but stare at that emptiness, a visual representation of those who cared whether he suffered. The amount of people who took the time to consider someone else, was lying in a hat. And it was completely empty. Now that, is truly heartbreaking. I even approached my group leader, whom lives in the same town as me, the same values which were brought with her, and I asked her if I could give him my money, I obviously didn’t need it. I had expected a sad smile, and a nod, or even an “I don’t care,” but instead I was grabbed by the arm and pulled away.
I was told,” we don’t give the homeless anything, avoid eye contact, and keep walking.” And as I looked around I noticed the hundreds of people that did exactly that. Avoid eye contact, walking, ignoring others pain, walking, ignoring the obvious problem within this city of life, walking. That’s all they did. They walked right by. But what was truly upsetting was that he wasn’t the only one. Every street, every corner, every block, there was someone without a home. Someone who wouldn’t be able to eat that night. Someone who didn’t even have the heart to stop and offer a hand to those in need. And I realized, I was naive. This, was not a problem for those who walked, this was simply, life. Those people, who were wasting away, holding cardboard lifelines, simply- existed. That’s when I realized this was not the City of life I had imagined, but the City of Lost Souls.
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