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I got this title from a piece of American Literature by Charles Dickens, that people deem a classic. I can honestly say, I have only read the first page of this book. And it has been over 20 years since I have read that page. My purpose in stating this is to say that I don’t know the premise of this novel. I couldn’t tell you anything about this title, other than the first sentence, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Which has some relevance in what is to come.
I recently returned from a trip to Nassau, Bahamas. As soon as you get there, you’re placed in a heavily populated tourist environment. One can barely get through the gate before the natives begin to overwhelmingly approach you offering you their services. I will never knock any man’s hustle, we do what we need to do to take care of our families, so I was good with this experience. But then we took a tour of the city. The observer that I am did what I do best, sat back and watched. The streets that they took us on first to view were extremely narrow. The houses were small, some seemed to be ran down. As our guide navigated, he showed us wells where the natives would send their kids to gather water because their homes didn’t have running water. The city looked poor, but the people’s spirit was quite the opposite. You’d see people outside enjoying the life that they have.
We rode through a market right off the ocean where merchants selling fresh fish. Watching this was amazing. I observed one the natives handle Conch. They waste nothing every piece of the fish has a purpose. He pulled it out of the shell and explained what he was doing to us tourist. He spoke of how the skin of the Conch was good for fish bait. He talked of how they would clean the shells afterwards to sell as souvenirs. He even spoke of how at times the break the shell down to put around the ocean floor as a way to shield the island from hurricanes. I’m not sure how that works, but he is the expert. He and the others working these stands were all full of life.
As we exited that area, we crossed a bridge that wasn’t even five minutes away. The other side of the bridge told an entirely different tale! The roads were wider. The buildings were complete. Huge mansions, decked out yachts, manicured lawns. Homes full of electricity, running water, and all of the amenities. The Atlantis Hotel, were the have rooms for $32,000 a night was near. This side of the bridge just exudes money and wealth. Despite how beautiful this side of the bridge was, it seemed empty, almost dead. There was no one outside. There were no smiles or welcoming waves being offered.
As the guide drove about the other side of the bridge, he began speaking on how the people from the poorer side weren’t even permitted to go to the wealthy side. Not even to take pictures. I tried so hard to wrap my mind around this. I tried to find a justification for the way the “Lower” class was treated. I failed.
The contrast of this unequally divided city truly broke my heart. In all honesty, this was the worst part of the trip. It baffles me (even in the States), how there could be such a distinct difference in classes. It baffles me how, people can be so close to devastation or at least poor living conditions and not have a desire to help out. A phrase that comes to mind as a result of this experience is, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Looking at Nassau, America, and what is happening in the world, the answer to that phrase is a loud, resounding, “NO!” We are all guilty of this at some point or another. Still, even with all of the above, I am still hopeful. Sam Cooke sang, “But I know a change is going to come!” He is one hundred percent correct. But the change to come will not be a positive one if we all don’t get on one accord and begin seeing the value in one another.