I'm surrounded by things I have missed. by Nathan Hogan
Right now I am sitting in JFK eating Wendy’s, surrounded by things that I have missed for so long. Air conditioning, good food, flushable toilets, cleanliness. It feels like I am on a different planet after being in India for two weeks. I look around me at all of the luxuries we have in our country, and I am barraged by a mixture of emotions. Happiness for finally being somewhere familiar, sadness after leaving India and realizing that this experience of a lifetime is almost over, excitement to see my family and friends, and guilt and almost anger. I feel guilty for having enjoyed such an easy life after seeing the difficult conditions of people who I have grown to love, and anger when I look around me and see commercialism, and people so obsessed with themselves in nice clothes and buying as much as they can, obviously oblivious to the children who have basically nothing that I was with only a matter of days ago.
I remember one bus ride, where after being glued to the window, unable to take my eyes away from the unbelievable scenes that were flying by outside the window. I saw pitiful people lying on the side of the road in rags, and the look in their eyes told all of the pain and sorrow they had felt throughout their lives. Long after the bus had passed them, I sat in shock wishing I could do something for them.
With the plight of these people still fresh on my mind, we continued driving. Still unable to tear my eyes away from the scenery, I looked up and saw a billboard with a photo of the Statue of Liberty, and the sparkling skyscrapers of New York in the background. It looked to me like a magical land of perfection, and I was taken aback. Even though I lived in the same world and had even seen almost that exact view before, it looked completely different with the slums of India in stark contrast below it.
With a few more hours on the bus, I had a lot of time to contemplate the experience I had just had. This experience has given me a new perspective on life. Before, I was like the people I am now among in this airport, selfish and living a life where I took everything I had for granted. I now realize that halfway around the globe, there are people who live lives that I can still only imagine, even though I have had a taste of what they experience as a flew by them and looked into the dark filthiness of their huts and into their eyes. I cannot ignore that now. For the rest of my life, I will live with these people always in the back of my mind. The thought of them will play a part in every decision I make. I will never take anything for granted again, and I will make my decisions so that I won’t feel guilty because of my selfishness.