I found myself in a city crowned with luxury. Perhaps all of its sparkling characteristics illuminated what it wanted people to see, and shadowed the true darkness within it.
My skin felt soft and dewy. Reflective of the bright lights before me, the features of my face glistened in awe. The Eiffel Tower stood proud showing of its angles for all to see, while knowing well that it was the center of attention in the huge crowds. Paris was a dream like no other. With my mom by my side, she never let me forget how lucky I was to be here. However we both came to realize there is a lot more we were lucky for, and a lot more reality than fairytale dreams within the city.
That night we walked back to our Airbnb apartment sweaty and weak from the jam packed day of tourist festivities. Just before our door sat an older women cuddling two small children in her arms. Her hair was matted, face dirty, and her figure diminished to a sharp bone structure. She stretched across a blanket alongside a few very light miscellaneous bags, as she struggled to stay awake keeping her family safe and fast asleep in her arms. I recognized her from the night before, and even the previous day, always in the same spot. It seemed like everywhere I went, homeless men and women traced the streets settling in to their nighttime routine.
On our final night walk back to the apartment, we came across the same saddened faces on the sidewalk. My mom took me into a small grocery store, and told me to get what I thought people needed most. I picked out some small loaves of bread and a few other food items, water, and a few toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and baby wipes. The same woman and children were nestled in their similar spot. My mom took the grocery bag over to her, and smiled while she calmly handed it to the child that seemed older than the other. The woman and my mom shared a type of gratitude toward each other as if they were old friends. Seeing their faces was all I needed to share part of that same feeling with them.
Specifically, 140,000 people live broken with no place to go, struggling day to day on the streets of France. Collectively, an estimated 100 million people are homeless all around our world according to United Nations’ last survey. These individuals have a lack of security and necessary resources needed to survive everyday life. Homeless men, women, and children are stripped of humanity and seen as nothing but a lower class and are disregarded of the help we could deliver. Just like the family I saw, most homeless people are victims of illness such as malnutrition, and have six times higher risk of catching disease than people with adequate life styles. The beautiful city of love I was in, made me feel quite the contrary. Seeing what lies on the streets of a busy city, broke my day dreaming fantasy and opened my eyes to a much more important subject.
Maybe what I learned was to appreciate what I have, or maybe it should be to make people more aware of what is going on right before our eyes. To inevitably find oneself in that position and feel the urgent need to make a difference. Although I didn’t realize it at first, the decision to dedicate yourself to impact another person positively, is a selfless act of love that can make such a dark world just one shade brighter.