Tuesday, May 11, 2010

write it on your heart

I'm done with school- completely done with exams and leaving for South America in two days. Last night I went to the city to see some of my friends before I left. It was a crazy night and I ran from an apartment on Dearborn to Navy Pier to Wrigleyville and saw friends from work, high school, and U of I. I stayed with two friends of mine from Nazareth, and in the morning we sat by the lake and talked for a while. When we were driving back on Lake Shore Drive, I kept telling my friend how happy I was. It was so beautiful out, and I kept looking at Lake Michigan and all the people walking along it. I have always loved Chicago, but for some reason its beauty seemed especially transcendent. I remembered the fog of Navy Pier and the twinkling lights of the buildings the night before, and the charmingly chaotic nightlife of the North Side. I couldn't articulate the feeling I had that made me feel like my heart was swelling with my gratitude for everything.

Imagine we're astronauts who have crashed on the moon. We're stranded. We look up into the sky and see the beautiful blue Earth, but can't get back to it because our ship is damaged. All we can do is look at that brilliant blue orb in the cold black sky and long to be home again.

But suppose we managed to fix our craft after all, and landed once again, on Earth. How would we feel as we first set foot upon the Earth? What would we observe and savor? How intensely would we experience the smells and flavors, the gentle rain, or the warm sand underfoot?

This, says Thich Nhat Hanh, is how we should walk on the earth with each step.

Steve Hagan

My friend and I started talking about immigration, and the difficulty in reconciling the idea that open borders aren't feasible with the fact that immigrants are undoubtedly looking for opportunities that they don't have in the country where they are coming from. To me, it is presents a moral dilemma to deny someone an opportunity that you were given by pure chance. There was nothing that I did to earn the life I was given. I am so lucky to have been born in the United States. I am so fortunate to be in one of the most beautiful cities in the whole world. I feel that an awareness and gratitude of the circumstances that I was born into is conducive to acting in a way that promotes the lessening of the disparities in the world.

I explained my interest in international development to my friend, and my belief that there will be no end to civil strife, corrupt governments, and denial of basic human rights in periphery nations until they are able to ascend out of poverty. I saw Muhammad Yunus speak at U of I, and one thing that he said has stuck with me for months:

The poor themselves can create a poverty-free world.. all we have to do is to free them from the chains that we have put around them.

While I was speaking to my friend, I confessed my feeling of inadequacy in being able to effect change. I feel like there is so much to be done, and I should be doing it. But who am I? A 20-year-old, idealist college student. I do not have the platform or the devices to influence change on the scale I would like to.

I realized then how negative I was being- I have as much potential as anyone else. You can't change the world just by wishing it to be so. By changing the way that I act, the things I do, the life that I live I will effect change. Going to Santa Cruz de la Sierra to teach English will have an impact, and even if in a small way, I will be living a life reflective of my ideals. I am happy for that.

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