A few months ago I returned from Zambia on a volunteer teaching program. I went there to teach kids in the community. But I came back home with the discovery that not only did I teach them, but they taught me. Many of us are so concerned about having the newest car, the latest technology, or the biggest house. In reality, none of these material things really matter. Not in the way that personal connections and relationships with others matter. I knew my last day of teaching at Holiday Club would be a tough one. Tough in the sense that it was sad to leave the kids and the school when I could already see each of them growing and learning more every day.
Today I want to share with you a little bit about a girl named Doreen. She was one of the students in the school I was teaching at. By no means was she the best student. She was a big troublemaker and could be a pretty stubborn kid during lessons and when playing outside. But man, that kid had heart. She was very helpful in the classroom and with the other kids when needed. Like many of the other kids, she loved the attention and having time to play and learn at Holiday Club. She would always run up to me to grab my hand and was reluctant to let go. Sometimes she would get shy, but she sure could get fired up when she didn’t like something.
My last day teaching, Doreen ran up to me and gave me a special gift (see photo below). At first, I wasn’t sure what it was. But looking closely I realized that the items inside the bag were treasures to her, and may be considered treasures for many others as well. The bag contained a pen, half of a pencil, an eraser stub, a necklace, and a small plastic pin. You might be wondering what’s so special about this stuff. One of the things I noticed right away when I began my volunteer program in Zambia was how thrilled the kids were to color and draw, especially the girls. I realized that they were not used to having resources at their disposal all the time such as pens, paper, crayons, and pencils. It was heartbreaking to see how unbelievably talented writers and artists many of the kids were, and yet they had limited access to the tools that allowed them to use these talents. However, it was encouraging to see the way they learn to make do with what they have despite how little that may be. So hopefully that gives you an idea of how meaningful this gift was for Doreen to give me. Something that may seem like garbage to one person can have significant value for another.
I think we can all take away a lesson from Doreen. Regardless of our situation in life we can all find joy in life’s simple pleasures and take the time to give to others. Happiness can be found in the smallest places, sometimes we just have to open our eyes.