This I Believe

Stephen - Newland, North Carolina
Entered on September 20, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I have lived a life of privilege. I have never been rich or eaten from a silver spoon but I’ve still had 3 meals a day, a solid roof over my head and the security of knowing that these basic needs will be fulfilled daily. How do I know that I have lived this life of privilege? From the news, from books, or from magazines? No, I’ve been there. I have been to the Amazon Basin in Peru and seen children drinking and bathing in the biohazard that is the Amazon River. I have seen people literally starving to death in the town of Belen, one of the most poverty stricken cities in the western hemisphere. And I have assisted doctors in providing medical assistance to small jungle villages that had never even seen a doctor before the missionaries came.

I have seen all of these things within the space of three weeks while on a mission trip to Peru. This experience opened my eyes to the world around me and helped me to see that there are more important issues than our gas prices rising 10 cent.

This experience gave me the travel bug, a passion for seeing the world and learning as much about it as possible. My reasons for seeing the world are not to simply be a tourist but to take part and make a difference. In Peru I helped build a church and assist in medical work. But this past semester and summer I did something rather different, I studied.

In the spring of 2006 I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy. Not only did I go to school and take art classes in the city where the art renaissance was born, I lived, breathed and absorbed Italy and its culture. I visited the Olympics, the Roman Coliseum, and the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. My entire life for 4 months consisted of Italy and its culture. But on spring break and summer break I traveled to other European countries. I bought a Eurail pass and sought to experience as much of Europe as possible. I did not get the deep and intimate relationship with the rest of Europe like I did with Italy but I had the incredible opportunity to observe and learn about each culture. Between January and July I saw 22 countries and walked 3 continents not including our own.

And I have changed so much. I have learned to be a better citizen in my own country; I learned to better appreciate where I live and how I was raised, and how to better serve God and the people of this world. I believe that it is every American’s right and privilege to travel this world and learn about its history and culture. By seeing firsthand the horror of Auschwitz, the war-torn city of Sarajevo, and the poverty of Belen you can learn from history’s mistakes and help to create a better future for us all.

So I encourage you to leave your home, your culture, and all that is familiar and experience something new. Serve others, learn of their culture, and change the world.