This I Believe

Danielle - Greensburg, Indiana
Entered on September 19, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in burdens. I believe that some burdens are good, that they are helpful, that they are essential. If I didn’t believe in the benefit of burdens, I wouldn’t choose to spend my beautiful, sunny, free-of-stress Saturdays waiting in a line inside a classroom. But, I do just that. I stand in a room full of other college students and wait for an overworked nurse to stick an oversized needle in my arm. If I didn’t believe in the benefit of burdens, I wouldn’t come back Saturday after Saturday to get shot after shot.

These immunizations, though, aren’t my burden. They are but a consequence of my burden. Right now, this burden manifests itself in my coming trip to Cameroon, although it comes to me in different ways at different times. Sometimes it presents itself as a passion, sometimes as an outrage, and sometimes as a cause. But, in whatever form, it’s always there. I can’t move without feeling it. It’s a weight, on my shoulders to change the world.

I realize the incredulousness of that statement. I believe in it nonetheless. I believe that this burden is good for me. I believe in the awareness it creates. I believe in the compassion it creates. I believe in the changes that it creates in me. And I’ll take whatever negative connotations come along with that burden, and probably, secretly cherish them. Call me an idealist. A bleeding-heart liberal. An eternal optimist. An unrealistic dreamer. I’ll gladly accept them all. I believe in the great benefit of this burden I carry. Every day I feel it weighing down on me. Some days it’s less noticeable than others, but it’s always there. Every day I ease it a little by being more informed, being more committed, and being more active. Some days I do it in class among peers. Some days I do it on campus among friends. Some day soon I’ll do it among nursery school children in Cameroon.

I can’t in any way believe that this is a bad thing. I can’t believe that anything that creates such benevolent desires within me can be bad. Granted, my life would be far less complicated if I could mark off my calendar all recycling initiatives and boycotts, all campaign assistance and service trips. But, if this weight on my shoulders were gone, I would miss it, because it would take with it something wonderful within me. So, perhaps, it’s not as much a load on me anymore as it as a part of me. A good part of me.

Is it naïve to believe that a month in the west of Africa will really change the world? Probably. Will building latrines and giving hygiene classes and teaching English drastically alter life in Cameroon? Probably not. Is it realistic to think that this one trip will relieve me of this burden? Absolutely not. In fact, I’m counting on it.