Getting Perspective from Others

by Mark Betts

I am a senior at Emory, studying Political Science and Economics. I enjoy tennis, hiking, and rock climbing. I also like to keep up with current events.

Essay by Mark Betts

I believe in getting perspective from others.

Last summer, I had two jobs. A finance job where my eyes would get tired completing the latest excel spreadsheet in my little beige cubicle. And a waitering job. At the waitering job, there was a number of characters. Among them, was a waitress from Georgia, the country—not the U.S. state. She had one of those tough but charming personalities. One of the first things she told me was “I hate Putin.”

One night, when the restaurant was empty, she explained why. She said, “When I was much younger, Russia invaded and bombed my city. My father, mother, sister and I had to take cover crouching underneath a table while we felt the walls around our house shake from the bombs exploding around us.” She must have seen the shock in my face because she looked at me, smiling, and said, “But I’m sure you have bad things happen to you, you know, like falling off your bike.”

From that experience, I much more appreciated my privilege as someone who has never had to worry about his safety in the way she had to. And now, I appreciate things I had taken for granted. I know from that story, I now appreciate the smaller things more.

While, she and her family had to restart their lives in the United States, I have been lucky enough to get to go to school where we have subsidized outdoor Emory trips. I remember one a sunrise hike from not too long ago. We hiked, bone-tired, on a boardwalk by a highway in mostly darkness with flashlights from our phones and inclined up this mountain.

At the peak, there were all these wildflowers and little water basins scattered. And as the sun peaked just barely onto the horizon, the sun rays made the water basins shine and made the flowers light up to a vivid red. It woke me up a little bit to witness and gave me a sense of completion and peace. 

The Georgian waitress had to leave her friends in Georgia behind to come to the United States, but I’ve been lucky enough to be able to keep up with my high school friends. In fact when we come back home from college, we usually get together on a Wednesday or a Thursday at a Wingstop or Buffalo Wing Factory. Some of you probably know, they have this unlimited deal where, you can get unlimited wings for like 10 bucks. And so we do that, and we also get a pitcher of Budweiser. 

After that, we start to just roast each, often using the nicknames we gave each other in high school. I’m “twiggy” ‘cause I was really scrawny in high school; one friend is “moose” because he grew up in Canada; and a third one “snake” because he was always instigating fights among us. It’s all pretty stupid. But I always look back on those times with a lot of warmth. It may have been the Budweiser pitcher, but more accurately, I believe it was the fact that we could all hang with no pretending necessary because we’d known each other for so long.

What I gathered from that waitress from Georgia enriched my life so that I could slow down to appreciate things as simple as a dinky waitering job, a tiring hike, and a high school friend group. So now whenever I shake someone’s hand, I do it, appreciating the perspective I can gain from listening to them.