I am a Ball State University student from Muncie, Indiana, and have had the opportunity to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. I am a telecommunications major with a news concentration, and will be reporting on the culture, atmosphere, and events throughout Rio during the games.
Everyone reads fun, quirky stories on the internet periodically, right? One day, I read a story about a man who is biking around the world: Somen Debnath.
191 countries. 16 years. 1 bike.
I was blown away! I can barely bike a mile, let alone around the globe!
So I read this story about him ages ago (three, four years maybe?). Well, I was sitting in the lobby of my hostel one night chatting with a few classmates, and then a stranger came and sat down on the couch beside us. This was normal since we shared the hostel with other guests.
The stranger asked where we were from, what we were doing, stuff like that, again, all pretty normal. Once we asked the questions back, he replied that he was biking around the world. He said it so casually that I thought he was joking at first. After a moment, he had us google his name, and I realized who I had just met: Somen Debnath, the man I had read about so long ago.
I had a bit of a freak out, but I kept it pretty calm, and we just continued to talk about both our adventures: ours here in Rio, and his around the world. After a few moments, I asked if I could shake his (I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer), but instead of shaking hands, he held out both his hands, palms facing up. He then started to say a few words in his native language and squeezing my hands. At this point, I was incredibly confused. After a moment of this, he explained he had just traded energy with me, something I know little about, so I asked for more of an explanation. He said he comes from a religion where he believes trading energy is the best way to understand someone. Even now, I don’t completely understand what happened, but it was definitely a first and definitely enchanting.
We would then chat when we saw each other throughout the hostel, and we even happened to have breakfast together one morning! Every day I would learn about a new culture or part of the world through his tales and adventures.
One evening, he stopped me on my way up to my room, and another conversation started. Again, not unusual. But this conversation would be one I don’t know if I will ever forget. Somen told me that night that, “to learn is to change, and to change is to spread positive through the world.” This single sentence has been in my mind since that night, and I am not sure if it will ever leave.
The sincerity, honesty, trust, and faith I could see in his eyes that night was unbelievable. He truly felt I can change something in this world, with people, and with myself. The only necessary piece of this formula is to have an open mind, and then one can learn.
I was astounded. I am astounded. And I most definitely believe in this newly discovered wisdom.
By learning, you change—even if it’s an unnoticeable one. This change, slight or mighty, turns you into a better, well-rounded individual. By being this type of person, you will teach others your wisdom and experiences, and thus they will change into a better version of themselves, as well.
Another thing I learned from this unexpected meeting? Never disregard those around you, because you really never know who you might be standing next to.