After a turbulent plane ride, collecting bags, and getting through customs we were finally on our way. Sunshine and humidity met us as we stepped outside into the city of Managua, Nicaragua. As we piled into the truck, we got our first sharp look at the poverty in Nicaragua. Shanty towns turned into lush mountainside as we continued our journey. Our 4×4 truck climbed the mountain, crossed rivers, and avoided deep ruts as we drove to the co-op of Las Nubes near Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Friendly smiles and hugs filled the language barrier and greeted us as people gathered for a co-op meeting. Everyone huddled in the meeting room as the skies opened up and started pouring rain.
As the meeting progressed, I started to notice that kids were slowly coming to the doorway, just waiting. My attention wavered from the talk about the price of coffee to the kids. You see, I’m a teacher by profession and while the pricing of coffee is important, so are the kids. I knew my husband was engaged in the conversation about coffee, so I turned all of my attention to the kids. Most of the kids were hanging outside of the doorway, hesitating, as if they were waiting on something. One girl hung further back than all the rest. She caught my attention. She had on little red rainboots and couldn’t be more than 3 years old. Her eyes met mine and she darted away. I started playing hide and seek with the kids nearby, and soon the apprehension left the kids’ faces and smiles emerged. Soon the giggles came. The adults soon quieted us, but we just giggled softer. Then I broke out the camera. Oh goodness – what a toy! Many of these kids had never seen themselves before, so seeing their picture on the digital screen was a treat. Soon peek-a-boo games started with the camera lens.
My attention turned back to the coffee talk as we were quieted again by the adults. Then it happened. The girl who caught my eye took my hand; my pinky finger to be exact. When I looked down at her, she looked up at me cautiously. Her big eyes spoke volumes and this little girl stole my heart. I still had my camera in my other hand and I grabbed this shot:
Her eyes stayed on mine and she stood there holding my hand, looking up at me until someone called that it was time for lunch. Then her little fingers let go of mine, and she ran to her place in line. She stood next to her big brother and waited for her food. The kids told us later that they were excited for us to visit because we brought them lunch – a cheese sandwich and a fruit drink. This girl was a little thing, very small for her age, and I guess whoever was passing out the sandwiches didn’t see her. She didn’t whine or complain. She just waited. Her brother noticed she didn’t have any food, so he took apart his bread, pulled out the cheese and handed it to her. I watched in awe, holding my breath. My kids would have been fighting over who got the biggest piece of cheese, and here these siblings are sharing food. She folded up the cheese carefully and took tiny bites. Finally, after everyone had food, someone noticed she didn’t have a sandwich. They quickly made her one and her eyes lit up as she was handed the sandwich. I exhaled and started to turn away, but then I saw something amazing. She opened her sandwich, took off the cheese, and gave it to her brother.
This tiny little girl and her watchful big brother left me with big questions – why is it children in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere can give so much when they have so little? And give without complaining? My kids protest if someone gets an extra marshmallow in their cereal bowl. The adults I encounter complain everyday about something being unfair. I cringe at the number of times I whine each day. Being thankful in all circumstances just took on a whole new meaning for me. If only the world could care for each other the way that these kids do. No more looking out only for yourself. Sharing what you’ve been given, even if it isn’t a lot and being thankful in all circumstances. Those are ideas that could change the world, don’t you think?