I’m sitting on the rooftop of my hotel in India and am looking around. The first thing I see is right in front of me. It’s a squirrel which seems to have doubts about coming closer to me or not. The second thing that catches my eye is a small house made of some wooden planks. The distance between the hotel and this house is only fifty meters. A bit further away I notice a little boy who is working in a field. He is trying to move a goat to another part of the field, but it doesn’t want to go. I watch the boy pulling and hitting the goat with a stick. The goat eventually starts to move. The boy walks over to a girl who is also working in the field and they start playing with a ball. I realize it’s actually a school day and guess he probably doesn’t go to school. I look at the squirrel again and try to make eye contact, but I’m not sure if we really have. Another squirrel appears and it seems as if the two are talking to each other.
For some reason, all of a sudden I feel sad. My mind is connecting all what I’ve seen and my thoughts take the information further. I need to clear my mind and start writing in my diary. I try to figure out why I feel sad. The two squirrels have come back and seem to notice me. At this moment it feels like I can’t really make contact with the squirrels, because they can’t talk like humans do and I can’t talk like squirrels do. Although I in general don’t believe that we only communicate by using words, at this moment I feel isolated from them. I hear and see the two squirrels communicating and after some minutes they run away again. The way they run and jump makes me smile. I’ve never seen this from so near. When I can’t see them anymore I stare at the little house again, only fifty meters apart from my hotel, and I realize it’s so near, but the difference between the two is so big. I’ve left my hotel, during the days I’ve been here, several times to get something to eat or drink. Every time I walk outside really poor people ask me for money. I try to ignore them and put my sunglasses on so they are not able to see my eyes, because if they do they will definitely keep following me. I look at the little house and wonder if those poor people live there. I feel as isolated from them as I feel from the squirrels, although with them I am able to communicate with words.
You should know that when I was a child I always switched off television when I saw news items about people who were really in need. I couldn’t look at the people who seemed to be starving to death. It made me feel so sad and angry. I couldn’t understand how it was possible that the difference between my surrounding and theirs was so big. I also felt stupid because I didn’t do anything to help them, but to be honest I also didn’t have a clue what I could do to help them. Right now I’m in India and I walk outside with my sunglasses on to be able to ignore the really poor people who ask me for money. The inequality problems are even more ‘in my face’ and I still don’t do anything. I’m afraid that if I’ll give one of those persons (an old lady in very dirty clothes, a little child who is carrying an even younger child, a man with only one leg) money, others will follow and I think about what I’ve read in the Lonely Planet ‘you shouldn’t give money to beggars because then you give them a reason to keep begging’, but I wonder if they have another choice.
I look at the boy in the field again. He’s still playing with the girl and they are having fun. The look of it makes me smile. I’d rather see him playing then hitting the goat. I ask myself what happened that people think they are allowed to treat living creatures like that. But then I see myself again, walking down the street and think if human beings can’t even take care of each other, how could we take care of other living creatures? I actually think most of us want to take care of each other, but like me sometimes, just don’t know how to do it. Especially when we are in our home country where we have our job to go to, our children to cook for, our sports training to go to and our friends and family to visit. It often feels like we don’t even have enough time for all of this, so we focus on our own lives and of the people close to us. We don’t really see how we could possibly make the world a good place for all of us. We usually just copy the way of living we see around us, although sometimes we think and feel this couldn’t be the best possible choice. In the western world we are working really hard to be able to live our ‘modern’ lives, while in some families, children starve to death because there isn’t enough money to feed them. But if we, of ‘rich’ families, even struggle with our lives, who are we to know how to help the (economical) ‘poor’ families?
My thoughts make me sad and make me want to fight someone, but I don’t know who. There is nobody around to fight with. In my imagination I can only see myself walking down the street, ignoring the beggars and it makes me want to fight me. Why do I not do anything?! I see them don’t I? I already saw ‘them’ on television when I was a little girl and now I see them right in front of me. I can even feel them, because they grab my arm and ask me to give money. They ask me to help them, because I have more money than they will ever have, but I don’t do anything. Again. This time I don’t use my hand to switch off the television, but I use it to put on my sunglasses to protect myself from really seeing what is going on.
Sometimes I think the only persons in this world who really see the things the way they are, are babies. Have you noticed how they can stare at you? It’s almost as if they search your eyes for your soul. It is as if they see right through us. That’s why we grownups tend to look away. Maybe they do and they still see the pureness in us, which we are afraid to show because it shows us we are vulnerable and makes us have to admit we don’t have all the answers. We grow up and the people around us, with the best intentions, teach us not to look at everything this closely. But if we stop looking, we ignore the reality. It is as if we put the reality in a box where we can’t see it anymore, but it’s still there. We can’t escape reality. I wonder what would happen if we would really look at each other again and we wouldn’t look away if we would see something which hurts our soul. Would it make us feel more free again, because we wouldn’t have to carry the weight anymore of all the things which are happening around us, but we pretend not to see? Would we make other choices, choices which would make this world a nicer place to live in for all of us?
I look away from my diary and stare at the sky. I see a beautiful bird. Birds have always fascinated me. I remember myself sitting in a school class, staring outside, looking at the birds in the sky and repeating the sentence ‘free as a bird’ from the Beatles song in my mind. I have wished lots of times that I could be one and fly and feel free. I would fly over all the countries in the world and observe everything I would see and then connect all the information I’ve gained and come up with solutions for inequality problems. A nice fantasy, but not reality. I think of what someone I recently met said. Human beings are the only living creatures who have the ability to choose. Unfortunately we sometimes make our own prisons which make us feel like we don’t have the possibility to choose anymore. I think I should be happy I’m a human being and not a bird because I have the possibility to choose.
The scary thing about this possibility is the responsibility. The thought, of being responsible for the reality we have created, can feel heavy. It seems easier to just copy the way the people around us live their lives. It seems easier to just feel responsible for the people who are close to us. It is easier to point our fingers at other people who we believe are responsible for inequality problems. But I think all we do is close our eyes for reality and distance ourselves from our possibilities and responsibilities. Fortunately we are starting to realize that copying is not going to change anything in this world so the only thing we can do is reframe things. But copying is much easier than reframing. For the ability to reframe things we need to distance ourselves from our daily businesses once in a while so we can see the bigger picture again. Like a bird flying over a field. Sometimes we will see things which hurt us and seem too difficult to change. We will want to run away, but the truth is we can never run away from reality and each one of us still has the eyes which we have been born with. We only distanced ourselves from the truth sometimes, like we have distanced ourselves from the beggars on the streets. The truth is that when we are talking about beggars, we are talking about other human beings. How can we walk away from them, ignore them? I think the reason is we are afraid of the mirror they give us. If we would have been born somewhere else, in another family, we could have been them. But if we stop looking at them, disconnect ourselves from them, we also stop realizing how fortunate we are. We run, race through our ‘modern’ lives without really seeing our possibility to make a difference and without taking responsibility for this. We become like animals because it seems like we don’t have the ability to choose anymore, but we have! I unfortunately don’t have the answers to all the small and big problems we face nowadays, but am definitely willing to help making this world the best possible place to be for everybody. I hope in 2015 we will all try to make the best choices possible for all of us, without closing our eyes for what we really see.
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