This piece was written by Neele Kuder — a volunteer from Germany who visited the project in February/March and recently returned home.

After leaving the Project, I was lucky enough to maintain my bubble of loving-kindness in the form of two fellow travelers a while longer, until we reached our final destination.

Who am I to judge?

Being back in Germany has made me feel fairly disconnected, not from myself but from my surroundings — all the rush, the consumption (especially that of my own family), the entertainment. Any newspaper article might as well be fictional. Even regular habits like going to the bakery on weekends seem off. I feel as if I am watching a movie. None of it touches me. It is all surreal and overall I am most definitely not a part of it.

Until I caught myself wondering what this random stranger’s biggest fear is. We were standing in a queue at a bank waiting to do our transactions. He was dressed neatly — maybe even hand-tailored — looked grumpy, and let everyone know he was not pleased with the current situation, let alone life in general. It was tragic to watch, yet kind of comical as well. “Life can be hard,” I thought. But sometimes we make it even harder than it is — yet who am I to judge? I hadn’t walked even a mile in his shoes. I didn’t know his story; neither his struggles nor his fears. 

What might his biggest fear be?

The question about our biggest fears came up in my early days at the Project. There was a big variety in answers, from darkness to realizing you’ve spent your life existing rather than living, to never finding a significant other.

None of those are things I would’ve called my biggest fear, but I found myself in them. They resonated with me and while I listened to everyone share, I understood all of them. I got why they were afraid, the nature of their fears made sense. I felt them.

That evening I related to people whom I’d had as little interaction with as I’d had with the man in front of me: none. This question showed me that no matter what, we are all the same. Above all at the end of the day, we are human — every single one of us.