I spent a few weeks in Cusco, Peru back in October volunteering at a girl’s orphanage. This was an experience that changed me and helped me appreciate all the wonderful things that I have been allowed in my life. Despite the struggles I might have faced, these girls live in a completely different situation.
Lots of things stuck out to me while spending time with these children. I noticed that they wore the same clothing every day. I noticed that they took one shower a week with little to no privacy. I saw that there were almost no adults interacting with them (to help with homework, to give them hugs, to give them ideas on activities, etc). I watched one beautiful five year old girl get dropped off at the orphanage for who knows what reason. Maybe her parents died or maybe they couldn’t afford her anymore, but either way, she was now left to be raised by strangers. Out of all these things, one memory jumped back at me today.
A girl who was about twelve years old was asked this question: “what would you ask for if a genie came out and granted you three wishes?” Take a moment and think what it is that you would request. A new car? A mansion? A million dollars? This little girl was not hoping for anything miraculous. She was asking for things that you would expect to be in your life- an education and a job. These are things that I have, and still I have wanted more. In my daily Los Angeles life I feel like one of the poorest of the poor, but to these girls it seemed like I had endless cash. I remember about three girls approaching me timidly to ask if I would buy some craft sticks so they could complete their art project. I think it was 15 soles to get a huge amount (which is about $5). They thanked me so profusely and with such appreciation that I didn’t know how to react.
It’s so easy to get down about how our lives are panning out and how others have more than us. In the moment that it takes you to be envious or angry with the success of others, someone else is struggling to survive. Lots of things are so frustrating to me (such as the gun control issues, gay rights, education in the U.S.), but at the end of the day, I am pretty lucky. We are all lucky to be alive, we are lucky to have someone who loves us, we are lucky for the food we eat and the place we sleep. Be thankful for what you have and do not hesitate to give to people who are in need of things we consider to be the basics. The world is far from perfect, but there is still plenty of joy to be found and shared.