This I Believe
I have always lived a privileged life. I have always been provided with a roof over my head, three meals everyday, clean clothes to wear, and the opportunity to do whatever I set my mind to without constraints. I have never known what it’s like to not have air conditioning, to drink water straight from the tap with the fear of contracting a disease, to start working at age seven, or to not feel safe in my own neighborhood. Moreover, I have never fully appreciated my lifestyle. That is, until this past summer when a single experience taught me to never take my life for granted again.
This past summer I traveled to China with my family; the first time for my sisters and me, and the first time back for my parents since they immigrated to America as children. Besides visiting many tourist attractions, one day in Yang Shuo, our tour group had the option of going into the countryside by golf carts to see first hand how the villagers truly lived. To be perfectly honest, when presented with this option, my first reaction was one of ignorance. I didn’t understand how watching and gawking at people from our golf carts would teach me anything about life. As we slowly drove out of the city and into the countryside, I was stubborn and reluctant, refusing to have an open mind. But soon, even, paved roads turned into bumpy, dirt roads, the noise and mess of construction disappeared, and we were soon surrounded by miles of mountains, rice patty fields, and a clear, blue river. The golf carts dropped us off and as we walked through the village, it was so clear that the atmosphere and mentality of these people were completely different than those who were a mere twenty minute drive away. Seeing the architecture of a hundred year old building still in use, having two seven year old girls follow us throughout the entire village attempting to sell us souvenirs, listening to people laugh while swimming in the river seemingly unaware of the amazing landscape behind them, watching people harvest rice less than fifteen feet away from me, I was in a whole other world. The state of ignorance I held an hour before was replaced with a state of awe.
My entire outlook on life, built on seventeen years of experience, changed completely in less than half an hour. The simplicity of their lives made my life, filled with material items that I considered essential to survive, seem utterly superficial. Although the villagers of Yang Shuo worked tirelessly for money that bought them so little, they were completely happy and content with life, more so than many people in the United States that are much more fortunate. From this one experience, I gained a life lesson that I will cherish for the rest of my life: I believe I should never again take my life for granted.
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