The Things We Take For Granted

Do you ever feel like we take our lives for granted, never seeing beyond the lens of our own surroundings? We complain about having to wake up for that one 8 am; complain about our friends; complain about the next midterm. But, the simple and underlying fact is, we live a blessed life. Now you may be thinking, thousands of dollars of student debt and a crappy meal from target express is hardly anything to be blessed about! I thought the same thing.  This past week has found me looking past the life in which society has created for me. While exploring Cabo San Lucas during Spring Break, certain experiences and sights opened my eyes to a world I never thought existed.

This was the first time I had ever been to a developing country, so obviously everything I was seeing was new and foreign territory. When I first arrived, I was so happy to have break from school and the associated stress and responsibilities that I mainly focused on enjoying the radiant sun and sandy beaches of Mexico, I never took it upon myself to step back and take a second glance at what was going on around me. It wasn’t until the middle of the week that I really started to notice the facade that was surrounding me. Behind the natural beauty of this city lay a disturbing reality that we tourists didn’t even seem to notice. I watched as college students were enjoying the time away from what they thought to be a painful and stressful life.

One experience hit home for me significantly. Every night my friends and I went to the same bar in downtown Cabo. We also stopped by in the mornings before venturing to the beaches. Outside the bar, a withered old woman sat against a wall. Many passed by this woman as if she was just a part of the wall. I also did too for a while. Sadly, I’d encountered homeless people back here in Minneapolis, so I was no stranger to this. But for some reason, this woman struck me differently. She was there in the early mornings and the late nights when I returned. Finally, one night, I knelt beside her and offered her money. I thought I was doing a good deed, but she refused. I was baffled. A typical American homeless person might have taken my offer without hesitation. I will forever be puzzled as to why she wouldn’t accept my money. If not for money, why would she be sitting out there? Was it because she wanted to make a statement of some kind?

Our return trip to the airport influenced me the most. We were driving normally down the highway, my friends sleeping in the back when suddenly we hit a massive amount of traffic. I asked the shuttle driver what was causing the traffic, and he stated that there was probably a bad crash. He mentioned that earlier there was another crash as well. When we drove by the crash site, I heard the driver causally say “This one’s another bad one, yeah… there’s the body right there.” This guy was telling me about this serious crash with multiple dead bodies so nonchalantly, like it happened all the time. When we passed by the crash scene I was struck with an uneasy feeling. A feeling of fear, confusion, and distress. Something equally disturbing followed. Because of this crash, we took a detour through a different part of what would be considered the “suburbs” of Cabo San Lucas. What I saw was completely different from what the glamour of downtown was. Rundown homes, sand roads, barred up windows. I was seeing the real Mexico, not the stage set by the travel agencies.

Perspective is the key idea to understand here. Remember how we all use to say “oh that’s a total first world problem.” When I heard someone say that when I came back from this journey I took it differently. Not in an offensive way, but more of an understanding behind the statement. After opening up my eyes to this new world, I understand that a lot of our problems are in all actuality, first world problems.

So the next time you find yourself complaining about that next midterm, or cursing that one 8 am, I urge you to pause and ask yourself: is this really a problem worth complaining about? Because chances are, what you consider a problem or nuisance, might just be someone else’s dream and aspiration.

By Andrew Swisher