All Life Has Value

William - Maysville, Georgia
Entered on March 24, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
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This I Believe: All Life Has Value

During the Christmas break of 2005 I visited my sister in Africa. She was devoting herself to the benefit of others as she has always done. She had been in Africa in the Peace Corps for about two years out of her total two and a half. As she, my father, my brother, and I traversed the southern tip of Africa, I saw something I had never seen before: complete and total poverty. There were villages with all of the houses made out of only tin boards. Children and grown women would run along side our car begging for candy. That, after all, was the only image of white people they had ever seen in Lesotho: white people in their cars responding to the population’s total poverty with a frivolous tossing of candy as they drove faster to avoid the filth. Almost every decent job I saw involved some sort of tourism, native people yet again exploited for the sake people of European derivation. I believe people’s lives should not be constrained by the economic class they are born in.

From what I have seen throughout my life, it seems as if people stay in the same economic class all of their lives. When my family and I were going through a small Lesotho village in our car, a grown woman went up to our car in earnest. She wanted candy from us, undoubtedly as a result of getting candy from another car with white people earlier in her life. It amazed me that a grown woman, someone who is supposed to be a prideful person, would lower herself to such a level. I still cannot comprehend what could bring her to toss away her pride for something that is such a frivolous thing in most people’s life. To a friend I made in Africa, a drink worth one thirteenth of a dollar was a rare treat. He was so exited about it, and brought me with him to a store several miles away. To me, it tasted similar to cough syrup. It bemuses me that something like that drink was considered such a luxury. Later, that same friend invited me to his house. He wished to share another luxury with me. He offered me a meal of his view of a delicacy: fried chicken feet. I politely declined. This boy was an extremely intelligent, extremely diligent individual. He made one of the highest test scores in his nation. But even with this, if it weren’t for my sister paying for most of his school expenses, he would certainly continue the cycle of poverty his family has undoubtedly been a part of for centuries.

I refuse to believe that Katleho has any less value than I. The circumstances he was born into, however, would obscure his individuality. That is the problem faced in our society. We see poverty not as individual faces, but as a large, inanimate figure. There is little room for compassion if one looks upon the problem as such. I believe that people who were born fortunate should view helping those less fortunate as a requirement to live their own lives. I believe in order for the world to truly know peace, we must give part of our abundance to those who were born with less.