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Photo by Stew Motta, India Semester.

Wealth is tricky

I’m sitting in a pile of leaves that spreads wider than the tree reaching over my head
And I’ve never thought of myself as wealthy,
But I saw a man pushing himself down the line at the train station
Sitting cross legged on a scooter I could have played on in gym class,
with a pink flip flop to cover his one hand working against the wet cement,
And he asked me to help him.
I stood in clothes I just bought yesterday, with no language to tell him what I wanted to say,
“Sorry, I can’t.”
I just wanted to tell him I’m sorry,
And I realize how hard that would be. But also how hard it would be to explain how
I’m standing on two healthy legs and new shoes with my next meal waiting for me,
But I’m not wealthy, because at home in the line up of haves and have-nots
I’ve always placed myself somewhere in the middle? Because I always knew someone with more?
I see now that made no sense, even in English.
I’m still sitting in leaves and for the first time since I left home,
We’re talking about money.
our trip abroad is a niche market,
finding people who want to pay a lot of money to live like they don’t have money for a few weeks,
And it’s in the moment I stop excusing myself from that group of haves,
As if I earned my food and clothes and health more than others,
That I can realize how fortunate I am—
And see wealth not as black and white,
Or even miles of gray,
But as a whole mesh of colors and hues blending together,
Flowing, diverging and meeting again,
Crashing into one another and falling into place
Among the leaves I’ve found myself in.