By: Andrew N.–Kampala, Uganda
There are many interesting things that have captured my heart since landing in Kampala a month ago. A large influence has come from the children of this country. Though impoverished, without electronics to entertain them, sometimes half clothed and hungry, other times living with a full family in a small mud hut, and overall without many things you would think kids “need,” they are happier than any children I have ever seen.
The first experience with this came while we went to see the KICK children perform traditional African dances for us. Upon arrival, I was wondering around the site filming everyone and turned just in time to see Alexandra talking with two small girls, Martha and Margaret. One girls had a bright colored headband on and Alexandra, looking at her, said, “I really like your headband.”
“You have,” Martha said while starting to take it off to give Alex.
Even though Alex insisted she keep her headband, seconds later the girls were helping her put it on. For as little as these kids may have, it took nothing for Martha to just take something off her person and give it away.
Secondly, we have been on a handful of rides where we have journeyed through some back road areas. These areas consist of aluminum built huts and shops where chickens and turkeys wander freely, and children are everywhere. Whether on foot on in a vehicle, once the children notice us approach, they drop everything they are doing and begin darting towards the road.
“Mazungu! Mazungu!” they shout as they wave feverishly while running towards us. One little wave back and the smile on their face that couldn’t possibility get bigger, nearly doubles. Sometimes one child looks to the other next to them as if to say, “See that! They waved at ME.”
Two things occur at this point: 1) A smile flashes across my face knowing by just paying attention and doing something so simple, I was able to make these children smile. 2) I then hurt a bit inside thinking, “Wait, who the hell am I? Why are these kids running towards ME when I should be running towards them, curious as to where they find their excitement in life?”
One specific child touched me the most. This past weekend some of us journeyed to Jinga to go white water rafting on the Nile. In order to get to the launch site, we had to drive down a skinny clay road that I hesitate to even call a road. We chugged down this road through the brush trying to avoid getting stuck in the mud and/or tipping the bus. We passed by many tiny one family mud huts where, as usual, the children came running as soon as they heard a vehicle.
At one point we slowed down slightly so our driver could gently navigate around a large mud patch. I looked out my window to see a young boy and his little brother, not running towards us, but just standing on a small hill nearby. Our eyes met and the boy gave a big wave and smile. Without hesitation, I waved back to him. Instantaneously, the boy blew me a kiss, which caught me very off guard; I have yet to see that in Uganda. As if by reflex though, I blew him a kiss back. His smile widened as he blew me yet another kiss and kept waving to me as we slowly pushed on down the road.
It is simply amazing that with what little these children have, something as simple as a wave from a Mazungu seems to make their day. I only can imagine how the rest of the day they may reflect on how great of a day it was, just because of a wave or a blown kiss. We seem to have lost this simplicity in life. To a great extent, the negative moments in our daily lives is focused on, not the tiny great things.
I remember once reading an article about a blind man on the side of a road with a sign “I’m blind, please help,” and a can for change. People passed by the man all day long with few dropping a little bit of pocket change in the can. Without the man’s knowledge a passerby took his sign, scribbled on it, and mysteriously more people began putting money in the can. The passerby simply changed the sign to say, “It is so beautiful day out today, and I cannot see it.” Personally, I feel it made the pedestrians change from an “ugh, here’s another beggar,” outlook to one of “Wow, I actually have the ability to see.” It’s a simply transformation from a focus on the negative to the positive things in our lives.
There’s no reason more people should not smile on a daily basis. Things will go wrong most days, some minimal and some major, that is a given. I’d like to challenge all of you, take one day and write down every little positive thing that happens. No matter how you feel at the end of the day, read this list before you go to sleep and try not to smile.
Hold the door for someone, give a friend a compliment, say hello to a complete stranger, call a friend/relative you have not spoken to in awhile, blow someone a kiss….You never know how that little positive event may change their day as well.