This I Believe

Carlos - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 21, 2006

I believe every American teenager should visit a third world country. It is important to be cognizant of the major quality of life differences around the world at an early age. Exposure to the harsh realities of poverty outside of the United States will provide teenagers with a new perspective on life and motivate them to make the most of the resources with which they have been provided. Such an eye-opening experience will increase awareness and broaden the global outlook of America’s future leaders. I am confident of these effects as a result of my own personal experience while visiting an underdeveloped country.

I was 13 years old and fresh off of a 20 hour plane ride to Bangalore, India. The first thing I noticed when exiting Bangalore International was the thick, sweltering humid air imposing on every pore of my body. Not exactly the ideal sensation of comfort I had expected after my lifelong voyage across the world. My annoyance with the hot summer day quickly faded as I was suddenly circled by a group of seven little boys and girls while attempting to board a bus. The children quickly grabbed my arms and legs and yelled the few select words they had learned in English: “Daddy, Daddy! Please help me daddy; I’m hungry daddy. I need help daddy.” “What is going on?” I thought to myself. This was obviously the first time anyone had referred to me as their daddy! I quickly climbed into the bus to escape all of the chaos and confusion. As I sat down, I saw the eyes of disparity on all of the children’s faces as they ran alongside the bus until they could keep up no more.

Once the initial shock of the incident had ceased and I regained my composure, I realized that I was no longer in the U.S. where laws and health codes would have prevented anything of the sort from ever happening. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of patriotism and became deeply grateful to be born in the U.S.. The more I pondered on the subject, the more I regarded my citizenship as a lucky draw of the cards or a crapshoot, rather than a birthright. From that day on I viewed the world in an entirely new light. My fixation with Air Jordan’s and the latest video games became irrelevant, selfish and downright ignorant. I made a personal vow to cherish my possessions with a higher regard and to avoid wasting any advantages bestowed upon me by mere chance.

Every teen should witness first hand how fortunate they are to have been born in the wealthiest nation in the world, and possibly do something positive to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Although it is possible to view foreign images of poverty on television, there is no substitute for witnessing it in person next to the people trapped in its clenches. It is for this reason that I encourage every American teenager to sacrifice one glamorous vacation of their adult lives and embark on a life changing voyage.