I believe that after having wandered through this ever changing cacophonous of life for forty-two years, that I finally have begun to understand, the rules of the game, the meaning of life.
As I have traversed the trials that make up a reasonably complicated semblance of time, this day to day we struggle to understand, the things that were simply dropped in front of me now appear to not have been obstacles, but challenges provided by the gods that control such things. Having grown to adulthood, and since having raised my own children, I now know that it is one thing to grow up unaware of the complications that will later cloud our lives with confusing order and all too simple truths. I now know that it wasn’t my mothers desire to lord over all that she purveyed, but only to keep the chaos to a minimal, the absolute dangers at bay, and the proverbial light burning at the end of the tunnel.
Two years a go I spent several months traveling what we in the west refer to as the third world. The adventure that I initially saw as an extended photo-op became one of the things that opened previously curious but all too jaded thought patterns to the understanding that the world in all of its complexities was comprised of more than the price of a gallon of gas, solar powered laptop batteries, and the latest and greatest model of ever changing mp3 players.
I now know that I was fortunate enough to stare into the eyes of beautiful children with dirty school uniforms, tattered flip flops, and beautiful brown eyes full of wonder and confusion while they smiled at this stranger who showed up out of nowhere, and began pointing obscenely heavy cameras at them and then disappeared into the distance.
When finally I let go of my own personal fear and confusion, I sat on the floor of a single room bamboo home raised twenty feet of the earth to protect it from predators, and the inevitable flood waters that occupy every single moment of every single day for months in the rainy season, I realized that these people whom had invited me into their homes to share what little food they possessed, treated me better than anywhere else I had visited in the world. They smiled, they called me the only word they knew in English, “uncle”, and followed me around until I would take their picture and show it to them from the back of my camera, which was pretty much a free for all king of the hill like event that left me at the bottom of a pile of laughing children trying to show them what they had never before seen, a picture of themselves, their smiles, their wonder. I laughed until I almost cried, and then when it was all over, I wanted to take them all home with me.
But mostly what I now believe is that what they do not need, is a pitiful glance elicited by tragic photojournalism asking for seventy-two cents per day, or a casual thought, which is quickly forgotten. What they need are the simple necessities that we take for granted, and maybe, just maybe, someone who recognizes that their beauty comes from within, that they are amazing souls, and if time permits, someone who will roll around on the floor with them, and laugh, and love, and keep the inevitable chaos of our world down to a minimum.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.