The Most Basic Belief

Matthew - devon, Pennsylvania
Entered on April 6, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: gratitude
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

The Most Basic Beliefs

I picked up a handful of sand and shook my arm back and forth slowly. The sand sent a tingling sensation all throughout my body as it poured out of my hands, in four separate rivers between each of my fingers. The great Zambezi River added an unrelenting roar as it picked up speed at my back. For the past couple minutes I had been sitting on the bank of the Zambezi River in a remote village of Zambia, Sioma Falls. An older man was sitting to my left. I knew very little about this gentleman. I knew this was his home, and sadly I knew that he was dangerously poor. Every so often this man would break the silence with a raspy but very demanding yell to the children who were playing at the water’s edge. The children did not think to disobey; they quickly jumped back from the edge of the crocodile-infested waters. I wanted so badly to look this man in the eye and speak to him. I wanted to know everything about the man behind his tired eyes. I finally worked up enough courage to lift my head and smile in his direction. When his eyes finally connected with mine, he changed my life forever. He taught me to believe in life. For it is this nameless man who showed me that before you can believe in anything you must first learn to believe in life. I believe in life.

When our eyes connected he smiled, a smile unlike any smile I had ever seen. His lips broke apart and he showed me his world. His two front teeth were missing and his face wrinkled almost painfully when he lit up the beach with his expression. My heart raced. It was 95 degrees and the hair on my arms stood tall. Finally, he took both of his arms and raised them slowly until his arms were fully outstretched above his head. He looked up to the sky where his hands were pointing and let out a short chuckle. He dropped his hands to his side, looked back at me for a brief moment, smiled and turned his attention back to the children at the water’s edge.

It took me several minutes of contemplation on that beach to truly understand what the man was trying to say, but when it finally hit me I was a new person. The man saw in my eyes my hurt for him. He was simply telling me that my whole life I had misunderstood life. That man taught me that life is not about a two story house with an HD television. He laughed as he told me it’s a beautiful world when you take your eyes off the ground. Life is not a measure of the superficial; rather life is a measure of how much you believe in your own life. Everyone is dealt their own set of cards, and those who are successful are those who believe in what they’ve been given, who live everyday with a sense of understanding of how lucky they are to be alive. The man put his hands to his sides and looked away.

I believe in life.