Saturday, November 20, 2010

On the seventh day of Thanksgiving...

I'm grateful for being an American. I never felt this way until I left the country for the first time in my life and finally used a passport at the age of 44. I went to Peru and Bolivia. There I saw what my life could have been if my grandparents hadn't hauled themselves across the border and decided to make their families American (they came from Mexico, but I imagine the conditions are similar).

What I saw in Peru horrified me: town after town of shacks on hills, shacks in valleys, shacks on farms. Little structures without complete walls and sometimes not even complete roofs. How do people stay warm in there?? And there's so little to eat that dogs roam freely, left to fend for themselves after their owners stop feeding them. It looked absolutely miserable. I spent much of my vacation feeling horrified at what I saw.

It was my Buddhist moment, but instead of vowing to leave my comfortable life so I could help the wider world, it made me want to slam shut the palace door and never leave it again. Indeed, that's what I've done and I am extremely grateful to be able to do it.

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