During stressful times, it’s too easy to forget how good life really is, and how privileged some of us are. And if you are reading this, I believe you are one of the lucky ones.
We have a home on our head, food on our table, clean clothes and we can just walk out the door when we get a craving for sushi and get it. Or even better, we can make someone deliver it to us. We can spend Friday nights having fun and enjoy to company of people who love us. We have the opportunity to go to school and pick the education we want. We have the chance to be able to travel and see life on the other side of the world. We are offered opportunity after opportunity if we’re just willing to grab them and work hard enough. Because I’m not saying we get it all easy, no, hard work and sacrifice is needed at times to get to our goals. But still, we have the opportunity to even dream of reaching as high as our imagination lets us, and we have the means to work towards them.
So often we’re so caught up in our small bubble of stress and daily routine, that we completely forget how much we actually have. I’ve been really grateful about many things lately and also had a time when it’s easier to remember how good things are, but about a month ago in Los Angeles, I got a real reality check on how good it all really is.
I was walking in Downtown LA, going towards the Arts District. I had checked on the map that it was only about two kilometers away so I decided to walk. My route led me through the Toy District, which turned out to be home to a lot of homeless people. There were entire streets full of tents, blankets, people sleeping or sitting on the pavement or walking around in a very poor shape. I had never seen such a place, and was quite surprised to find one right in the center of Los Angeles, and I started walking faster to get away from it. I wasn’t scared at all, it was during the day and I don’t easily get scared even in a bit shadier places, I simply felt terribly out of place. I felt suddenly very self-conscious in my long summer dress, my fair complexion and the numerous shopping bags in my arm that definitely gave out that I was not from the area. I felt so ashamed. Ashamed to walk in front of these people that have practically nothing, parading and showcasing all that I have. It was like I had entered someone’s home without permission, and I felt that everyone was looking at me, which they probably were. I tried to keep a neutral look and keep going my way as normally as possible, because if I were them, pity would have been the last thing I’d want to see on my face.
As the tents started to fall behind and I was sighing of relief because I got out of that very embarrassing situation, I saw two homeless men at the corner of a street in front of me. I walked past them at a good pace because there were no other people in sight, when one of them, an older man, looked at me, smiled and said “you look so pretty miss”. It was probably the most beautiful, genuine smile I’ve ever seen, and at that point, I really had to make an effort to not burst in tears.
How could that man, who clearly had so little, make the effort of smiling to me and even compliment me? I didn’t feel like I deserved that smile, and I will forever remember it. For me, that smile will be the reminder to be grateful for what I have and to be kind to others.
We are the lucky ones, let’s remember it, even if it’s hard sometimes. Especially then. The world is so unfair, and we get to be the ones who have the most, the least we can do is appreciate it. But more than that, we can use that privilege – because yes, it really is that, no matter how bad that word might sound – well and make a difference in the world for an easier place for all of us. And lastly, let’s remember that there’s always, always place for kindness. Merry Christmas everyone.