If you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty lucky. You didn’t grow up in a civil war. You didn’t barely escape genocide. You haven’t been subjected to much evil or misfortune. And I’m no different. I never had any real problems. I mean, I was born to two doctors. That’s quite a comfortable life for a kid. So when I was literally starving a couple short years ago, I wasn’t ready.
In my freshman year of college, I went to Canada. Lots of things changed in the land of cold winters. For one, I made friends with all sorts of people. Good people. People I wanted to help. The only problem was I wasn’t aware cash runs out.
It had never happened to me before, growing up the way I did. I was used to surplus. And I thought that was the default state of money. So before I knew it, all my cash was gone one day. I simply gave it all away. My tips started at $20 for a $5 cup of coffee. Then, it became $50. And then $100. What can I say? The servers were nice to me. So one day, I finally ran out.
I woke up late that Sunday morning to make breakfast. Only to discover my fridge was empty. Completely bare. “That’s weird,” I thought. “Let’s just go get some groceries.” So I went downstairs to the convenience store. I quickly gathered some food for breakfast in my arms and unloaded them at the counter. But to my great surprise, my card got rejected. It had $0.39 in it.
At that moment, I realized I was screwed. I’ve never been so scared in my life. Horrified, I showed the cashier my bank balance and asked her what it meant. She gave me a sympathetic look and offered to put my items back for me.
I never pay attention to the quantity of my money. Only what it can do. Or, in this case, what it can’t do. Such as feed me so I don’t die. But fortune smiled favorably upon me that day. Because on the walk back home, I found salvation: An overripe banana placed on top of a public trash can. Westerners tend to throw out fruit that has even slight imperfections, I find. And that worked out for me. That banana was the only thing I ate for the next 36 hours.
But why tell you this story? Because these days, people see me in a different light. Words like “inspirational” and “motivational” are used to describe me. And every time that happens, all I can think about is that banana. I remember how I cradled it to my chest, terrified that I’d lose the only food I had. I remember how I ate it with a fork and knife when I got home, closing my eyes to pretend it was toast and eggs. And closing my nose as well, because it tasted slightly off. The thing was half-frozen in the cold. Kind of mushy. I mean, it was on a trash can for a reason. But it was all I had.
I think of this story because it’s exceptionally clear to me that moments like these are responsible for my strength to move mountains today. The one thing you should never try to be is motivational. Just be honest. Those honest stories you wish you never have to tell? Those stories compel people to look to the sky with hope.