Since I was in middle school, professional speakers and presenters alike have visited my school in hopes of impacting my life with stories and videos of travels to slums in third-world countries. Being the usual close-minded teenager, I never took these stories and videos to heart. Year after year, I would sit through presentations describing the daily sufferings of kids in Ethiopia or the constant fear of being kidnapped and forced into the military faced by kids in Uganda. Year after year, the same thing would happen: I would doze off, and the presentations were never influential enough to move me to action.
However, something sparked in me no more than half an hour before I started writing this essay. I was talking to my friend Stephanie online, and we were discussing the essays on this site. I explained that I wanted to contribute, and Stephanie told me that Matt Harding had written an essay on the “This I Believe” site. I told her I wasn’t familiar with this person, and she sent me his famous Youtube video depicting himself dancing in exotic places all over the world. As I was watching the video, footage of him dancing in places like Chackachino, Zambia, in Africa came across the screen with straw huts in the background and dirt floors covering the bottom half of the screen. The foremost image that truly triggered a change in my perspective was the happiness I could clearly see in the faces of the little children who danced around Matt. As the images raced through my mind, I told my friend Stephanie how I suddenly wanted to do something similar to Matt’s journey. I wanted to experience and live the lives of those kids, to feel what it’s like to live without luxury, to wake with the sunrise and sleep with the sunset.
Suddenly Stephanie became just as eager as I was to take part in the lives of these children. We could see from Matt Harding’s video that the simple presence of a friendly stranger brought happiness to the children in these slums. Stephanie pointed out how those kids’ definition of happiness was vastly different from ours. Those children found happiness in the simple things. That’s the perspective I hope to achieve if I ever get the chance to visit the slums of Africa or South America. I said to myself that the true significance of Matt’s video was not that he visited those places, but that his experience inspired. It inspired me and Stephanie to plan a trip during the summer of our senior year in hopes of experiencing the lives of those kids, and more importantly it inspired Stephanie and me to think about documenting our trip in hopes of inspiring even more people.
I felt that the main reason before that could never move me to change my perspective was that these speakers and presenters always showed the negative aspects of the lives of these children. However, after seeing the happiness on Zambian kids’ faces, I was able to at least move myself to some kind of action. Though mine and Stephanie’s plans are nebulous at best, at least the happiness on the faces of those children inspired change in a couple of high school kids. So what do I believe? I believe that inspiration is the key to change.