“I never saw life the same way.”
Personally, travelling has always held a sense of fascination for me. You can unlock your mind and think of different possibilities, just by physically moving yourself to another place, experiencing its culture, living in its pulse and movement.
It’s usually true for most people, and this change might be more divine than words can explain. However, listening to other people’s perspectives has given me a glimpse of what it might be like. I came across an individual who went through this particular transition – Griffith, an Education student who went to volunteer in India as a volunteer teacher.
“I never saw life the same way,” replies Griffith. I had asked him how the journey changed his mindset. Such an experience must have made him see the world in another light.
The children previously lived life in poverty, something that he found different to what he was used to. He found it hardest to turn away beggars. Even though he wanted to help, it would just cause more beggars to crowd around him. Being there in person, Griffith realized that poverty is more than hashtags and powerful photography. Poverty is very real, and it made him resentful of the injustices people faced. He began to think how spoiled and ungrateful people in developed countries could seem in comparison.
What really affected him were the conditions the children live in before they managed to get help. “They had a really slim chance of making it into the world. It really broke my heart,” Griffith said as he recalls the children’s stories – abusive parents, abandonment, neglect.
However, Griffith says he felt warmth and generosity from the community, even if they had less than he did, and it was the same in the academy he taught at. It made him really happy that the children were in better condition now that they had shelter and food.
Despite the children’s traumatic histories, there was a sense of happiness and peace. He didn’t feel distant even if he used hand gestures and sign language to help and interact with them. Even being able to buy the children gifts was another moment of happiness for him. It was something special regardless. And, after a while, they became a part of his world.
“They loved it. It was a chance for me to show them my world after they showed me theirs.” It was then that Griffith realized happiness really is in the smaller things. The children showed him the true meaning of “less is more”. Their laughter and delight was the simple joy he shared with them.
However, with joy comes sadness as he also came to a realization. Realistically, Griffith knows that there are more children in such terrible situations. What troubles him most is that time and life will continue. The stories of these children in pain will be left behind and forgotten. “I believe, as a teacher, education should go towards everyone. But, these kids couldn’t get it. And what really saddened me was life will move on. These kids will be a memory one day and…I cannot play another role in their future. That’s how life works.”
Although Griffith had the opportunity to teach, it was the children who had taught him an important lesson. When he returned home, he realized how much better it was for him to live simply and without luxurious materials. There were the little things to be grateful about and seek happiness from.
I found that his realisation really hit a nerve for me. It is so true that daily there are many children who suffer. Once in a while, an image of a child crying or starving might get media attention and cause an uproar. Maybe it’s an iconic symbol of their pain. But, eventually it becomes something of the past. It’s forgotten that such images are real people with names, dreams and aspirations. They cannot walk away from it like we can. Unfortunately, deciding which image to publicize does not get these children the help they need. But being able to help in any little way that we can will.
After listening to his story, as another local student experiencing life in another country, it encourages me to one day travel and venture out on my own too. It seems like there are so many lessons to learn from other people, like appreciating what you already have.
Where would you want to go next?
“I’m grateful for the experience. I highly recommend people to travel, outside your mama’s love.
It’s food for the soul.”
Photo credit: Griffith