You Don’t Know True Suffering Until You Have Starved In A Desert
As an active duty military member, I have had my fair share of adventures. Moments that range from an absurd amount of partying to witnessing some of the world’s wonders up close and personal to occasionally living my own personal hell. The military lifestyle is quite an experience.
However, not all of those adventures are easy to tell. The most memorable moments were often the most difficult. The ones that you don’t tell most people because you know they can’t process what’s being said. These are the stories I often keep to myself.
They’re not fun happy, happy go-lucky memories — it’s the memories that often break your heart the most that have the longest lasting impact.
Happiness in a desert
One of those adventures took place within the stone city of Petra — A desert city located within the country of Jordan. Yeah, I said stone city. Petra is one of the seven wonders of the world as it’s the home of an ancient stone city that’s carved into the mountains. It’s an extraordinary sight really. Miles of mountains carved out into a once-livable city. It may be ancient history now, but there legacy has withstood the test of time. The area is now a popular tourist destination within the region.
However, that isn’t what stood out to me most.
As impressive as an ancient stone city is, it’s pretty superficial when compared to the lesson I learned.
During this time, I met a kid, a little boy, that kept following me around during my travel there. Specifically, he was following my group of tourists as we toured the desolate city. He was haggling many people for money and food. Like many people, I donated whatever money I had on hand.
This kid beamed with energy at the sheer happiness of possessing American money. His clothes were tattered and layered with dirt and sand. His body was frail yet he pushed forward despite the heaviness of desert Sun weighing upon his body. He obviously lacked money, social status and any of the privilege that we Americans possessed. While America can be a difficult place for people of color, I was a king in the eyes of that kid.
Yet, he smiled. Somewhere, deep inside, he was happy. Now that I think about it, he was pretty happy that whole time during our trip. To this day, I have no idea if his parents were around…or if he had any.
All I know that on this hot summer day in the middle of a desert, a little boy knew a happiness that I can only envy.
“Kid, why are you so happy?” , I asked in a playful tone.
“I’m hungry. It hurts…but I don’t want to complain. Do you have any food?” he tells me with positive energy radiating from youthful eyes.
My heart sank into my chest. Here I am: dressed in name-brand clothing, enjoying my modernized life, taking dumbass selfies to impress my friends and my fanciful approach to the world.Still, I complain about minor, and often, irrelevant things. Black or not, I still have one of the greatest superpowers in the world: American privilege.
That day. I felt ashamed. Not because I complain too much, but I’m not thankful enough for how good my life really is.
Be happy with the life you have
We’re living in a ravenous time period that includes, but is not limited, a viral pandemic, inefficient government, and a wealth of other issues too long for me to list here. Many people are getting laid-off and everyday there is growing a fear and anxiety of what the next day will bring.
I have seen so many people hide within their American privilege. Complaining that you can’t leave your home is a privilege. Complaining that you’re not working is a privilege. Complaining and then protesting during an actual viral pandemic is a new level of privilege I’m still trying to comprehend.
In many parts of the world, they have it so, so much worse. Many countries can’t social distance simply because it’s not possible. Our economy is tanking but you’re still alive, aren’t you? Every day is a new chance for a positive opportunity.
To be honest, I’m still going to find something to complain. However, I will also seek ways to be grateful for the many aspects of my life that are going well.
A man with no shoes stands on a corner
Sad about his circumstance and being on the street
Then realized that it wasn’t that bad
When he was joined by another man that had no feet
Because when it comes down to it, somebody, somewhere, has it so much worse than you.
Thanks for reading!
Dayon Cotton is a practicing stoic and is currently enjoying adventures in self-love and therapy.
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