This I Believe

Kenneth - lawrenceville, New Jersey
Entered on September 20, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I grew up in a very prosperous and privileged area that has left me with false ideas and images of life and society around the world. This all changed during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school I spent three weeks in El Salvador and Costa Rica. I didn’t spend my time in fancy resorts or secluded beaches being pampered and indulging in all the nice amenities that could be offered. No, I spent my time in the country with the impoverished people of these disadvantaged countries. In spending my time with these people I gained new perspectives and a whole new grasp of what life is all about.

I spent one week in El Salvador with my church group and a peace corp. member trying to help the people of a small town called El Porvenir and the surrounding area. As soon as we arrived it was clear that we weren’t in Princeton anymore and that this was going to be a completely different and great experience from our lives at home. When we finally arrived in the town we were given such a welcome and honor. To this day I have never seen so much given in genuine kindness when people have so little to give. We went to a small fiesta on the first night where almost everyone in the town had something to offer. There was Latino dancing that was so fun and energetic that by the end of the night everyone was dancing from young to old and visitor to town member. Then came the great musical acts performed by their local group of guitarists that sent more traditional musical vibrations through us. While this was all going on we were constantly being offered and served dishes of traditional food that tickled our tastes. The whole experience sent waves of warmth from joy and respect through my body and those of my peers. Over the next few days we had the privilege of spending time with these people and the chance to meet many different people and understand what their lives were like and then try and extend a helping hand. The conditions that these people lived in are unheard of in Princeton and were very moving for me because the kind of character that those people possessed was not deserving of those conditions. During the week of helping I experienced a plethora of emotions from the greatest of joys to depression and fear. After being with these people for a week and seeing how much we could help and how much they needed it and how deserving of all the help and respect in the world they were I found it hard to leave.

The next step though in my trip was along the same lines as El Salvador. I lived with my uncle on his farm in the jungle and had the chance to meet many more great people. Here again the level of living is of no comparison to us, being far inferior, but as was the hospitality and caring of everyone that we met, being far superior. Exploring the jungles of Costa Rica with a native farmer that I had become friends with was like nothing I have ever done or probably will do. Then after our long trek through the jungle having the privilege of eating a traditional dinner with my new friend and his entire family completed one of the best days of my life. Although I didn’t get a chance to directly help the people I had met, I still experienced the same emotions as before from the overbearing kindness of everyone and their completely satisfying culture that is far superior to the cut throat culture of America.

When I came home I was shocked and almost appalled by how much we take for granted, the way in which we live with such freedoms that are as simple as clean water that these people could only dream of. Every time I think about how happy they were despite their predicaments, I come back to the conclusion that true bliss and happiness does not come from a bigger pay check and nicer toys. I believe that joy is derived from the quality of how you live life by waking up and always being happy rather than angry and spiteful.