Living in many different countries is not an opportunity most people get to experience, but for me it is just a part of my life. I have lived in four countries in the course of just fourteen years and for me it is always exciting to live in a new place.
Some of my most amazing experiences happened overseas in Africa. Living in and experiencing many different cultures gives you such a unique view on the world. When you visit areas of countries that are poor and are filled with poverty, they truly show you how blessed you are to have a home to go to every night or food on the table every day. In many poor areas around the world you can’t always have your basic needs met.
I have been to several orphanages and have seen the affect poverty has on people. The orphans I met were some of the most joyous people. One of my most recent memories is when I went to an orphanage in Kenya and I learned how hopeful and happy all the orphans were even though they were stuck in poverty. When I was there all of the children were so excited to have someone to hang out with and someone to bring them what we consider normal things in life such as toys or even candy.
The children were happy just to play a game of soccer or play with my hair. The orphans who lived there ranged from the ages of two to seventeen. They also showed us some of their traditions and games. In return we taught them some of my family’s games and traditions.
My family has learned that the best way to form relationships with people is to learn about their life and help them in any way possible even if that just means playing with them. My entire family spent the day with them and we had the privilege of them sharing their lunch with us.
I also remember in an area in the Southern African country of Lesotho, I went to an orphanage which had an even greater poverty level. The kids there lived in buildings made of mud and bricks and even their clothes, shoes, and few toys showed much wear. When we found out they had worn the same things for several years, it was very sad compared to my life of all my needs and most of my wants met.
At that orphanage some of the children’s favorite time was to have my family come play with them. There they had only a few toys to play with, but what they also made use of was dirt, mud, trash, playing with stray dogs and each other. Where they lived the ground was uneven dirt with the occasional stream filled with trash. There were several stray dogs that would come around the children and would spread diseases that they carried.
Once my family and a group of friends took all of the orphans to a shoe store and bought them all new shoes. In my mind receiving a pair of cheap shoes is not something I would consider as an act of love or even generosity, but to those kids having a brand new pair of shoes, just for them was one of the most loving, caring, and generous thing anyone had done for them.
Over my years of living in Africa, I have went to many orphanages with all different types of children ranging from little newborn babies to people in their late twenties and have experienced much. Experiencing and seeing the most vulnerable and poor can really change your view on the world. Experiencing the best of cultures might show you how different a culture is, but seeing the poorest in a culture or a society shows you the needs of people. They uncover what is not apparent and often hidden when you look at a country or a society. Going deeper not only opens up your eyes, but it also improves the life of the person or people you go deeper with. You can never truly experience a culture without learning or seeing the most desperate of it.
Not only did I see how terrible things can happen to good people, but I saw how your mindset when something bad happens affects your life. You can learn many lessons from different cultures, but seeing some of the poorest people in the world who are also the happiest changes your whole mindset on the world as it changed mine. Looking at your life in a positive and hopeful view can change your life no matter what your circumstances.