The world is not so small after all

It took me about half the time I have been in college to realize I have been looking at life wrong.

I was working on a story  about the Central American refugees in San Antonio. There had been Googling happening. There had been research and question preparation. But, as any journalist will tell you, nothing beats actually doing the research in person.

I was worried about this story, something uncommon for me. I didn’t want to cross a line. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I was concerned about my work and myself. A quick email and a 45 minute drive and I was there, thats all that stood between a few interviews and myself.

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The church sign welcoming all their guests Photo by Amanda May/VoiceBox Media

Don’t look at anyone, I thought. People don’t want you to bother them. They want their peace.

I have heard before that people typically don’t pay much attention to others, as they can be more concerned with themselves. How they look, what they’re driving, how much money they make. Self-perception reigned above perception and I was the controlled variable.

It was not very busy when I got to the first church I was stopping at. Volunteers walked around the church property on a mission, offering a helping hand as I looked like a lost puppy. I fiddled with my notepad and pen, stalling before finding my interviewee.

We chatted for about 45 minutes. She talked to me about the refugees, their trials and tribulations and about helping those who were looking for assistance by any means. She said the churchs’ purpose was to fill the gaps that appeared in people’s lives. The interview ended, I pushed the red button on my phone to stop my recording, and I left.

While I was walking back to my car, I sat there thinking of how different everyones life was and no one had a real clue the hardships other people go through.

The First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio Photo by Amanda May/VoiceBox Media

The First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio
Photo by Amanda May/VoiceBox Media

I’ve had moments when I’ve felt like I didn’t have much going for me. I’ve doubted each step I’ve taken and I’ve wished that things would be different. Yet, as I neared my own car, I had a sudden realization that my life was perfectly fine the way it is.

My family has given me a strong foundation to stand tall on. My friends have given me enough joy that a quick recollection brings a smile to my face. I have food on my plate and clothes on my back. I had learned to take what I had for granted – a flaw, yes, and a grave mistake, too.

You’re an idiot, I thought. I hadn’t pushed myself hard enough to look from the eyes of others. There was the occasional volunteering project that had popped up every now and then in my life, but too often I was operating in my own comfortable orbit. I had been taking everything for granted and it took a shove to the chest for me to realize it.

Life is not guaranteed to continue each day. The world has never made me a promise to tilt the way that works best for us. One of the few things promised to us, however, is the pursuit of happiness, and what’s happiness when it’s not shared with those nearest to us? How does it exist if it’s rooted in all things tangible?

A lesson in taking things for granted: keep your eyes affixed upon the ground, never push into the unknown, never give all that you can and more. And never see the lives of others to be just as beautiful as your own. You need to find peace in where you are at in life and let that suffice.

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