St. Ignatius Loyola set out to create a world where men and women would be “contemplatives in action,” where we would observe, notice, and take creative action.
The study abroad experience is many things: exciting, inspiring, fun, challenging, eye-opening. It also brings forth tremendous responsibility.
When traveling from place to place, it is easy to get caught up with the adventure in it all. It is easy to only notice the most well-known landmarks. But each destination has its own complicated problems that need to be addressed by and exposed to the rest of the world.
Walking and exploring the beautiful sights of Paris, I noticed dozens of women and children begging on the streets. Passing each of them, I wanted to know their story, how they got there, and if they could be anywhere else, where would they be?
The image of these children and women has stayed with me and led me to much reflection.
Why was I given this opportunity and not them? What can I do? How can my Loyola education help? How can I make a difference?
I wrote this piece for them, attempting to give them a voice.
The Silent Mind
She sits on a mattress, a child in her arms, burying its face into her breast, sleeping. Her weary back leans against the cold Pont Des Arts Bridge. Her hands shake back and forth as she holds the cup before her. Back and forth, the ringing of the three euros in the cup resonate only in her ears. Around her everyone notices her, a quick glance, a second of pity, but they just keep walking.
A herd of tourist, all wearing red “I love Paris” T-shirts come closer. One lifts a camera, points it towards her, and flashes. Her eyes overwhelmed with whiteness and tears.
She is blinded from the world around her. Her heartbroken brown eyes gaze up at the sky, seeking contact with God. A dirty sheet covers her bruised legs. Love locks surround her and the unknown baby. Irony of Love, from the world to their own world on the mattress.
Her mind begins to wander, envisioning the mattress as a magic carpet, just as Aladdin’s. Now she can escape. She flies on the magic mattress across the Eiffel Tower. Her hand reaches out to touch the top of the shimmering metal tower. She flies onward, over the breathtaking mountains of Interlaken. Switzerland. Then the Great Pyramid of Giza. Then Hagia Sophia. Then the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then the White House.
She keeps flying, running away, observing everything about the world below her. The people resemble ants, she mashes them with her shaking hands. Squishing them on the grounds of the affliction and the pain they have permanently caused her. Now. Away from her fear. Away from her pain. Away from the tourists and their flashing cameras. Away from the hunger. Away from the humiliation. Away.
Another camera flash explodes in front of her brown eyes.