Simple Things

by

Hills. Everywhere. Even the school was on a hill. We didn’t even have to climb that far either. Seated comfortably on the cushioned, air-conditioned bus, we watched as people made the trekked upwards. “Hopefully we don’t have to walk that far.” How selfish I was.. 99% of this school lives in poverty and they walk up this hill every day. As we left the comfort of the bus, we were told we had to carry the backpacks we were bringing as gifts for the children. After each of us grabbed our share, we began to ascend. Up the dirt road with the donkey droppings on the side, up the crumbling stone steps of the school. Up. Up. Up.

The courtyard. Veiled girls standing in groups. These girls don’t speak English, how do we connect? Up again, behind the school. Dirt and clay mush under our feet. A simple field with dilapidated goal posts on either side. A basketball court with cracked cement. We unload our gifts under a tree and gather. Mixing is difficult. “Spit into teams for basketball,” someone says.

The basketball court. A little girl dressed in pink with pigtails stands alone. Why is she alone? I have to show her I care. “Shnu smityk?” I ask in terrible Darija. She tells me her name is Emsee. I invite her to make a bracelet. We sit in the dirt-clay mix under the shade of the tree. I pull out the letters I think will spell her name. She grabs some pastel colored beads. Green, yellow, blue, pink. I help her string them together, we’re almost done. Wait, the string is slippery, it won’t tie. I have to do this for Emsee, I cannot let her down.

The classroom. We sit against the wall in traditional Moroccan couches. There is a table with pastries and sodas in the center of the room. My focus remains on the bracelet. I can’t give up. Professor Segall thanks the director for allowing us to come. The director thanks us in return. I eat and drink without tasting. Finally a knot holds, it is finished. I put it on her hand and with a big grin she says, “Shukran.”

The heart. How can words explain the joy one receives from a child’s gratitude. Shame fills me as I realize how terrible my thoughts were before this girl touched my soul. I am privileged. I don’t worry about necessities; I worry about how tired my legs will be that night. This young girl was excited just by a cheap bracelet. How a simple life can make a world of a difference in one’s happiness.

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