Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On Giving Thanks

Each week, one of my colleagues and I pay the equivalency of about 70 American cents to ride in a large white van stuffed with passengers to our neighboring town, Uricani. We climb up a set of crumbling steps to a large clementine orange cement square of a building- the Uricani Primary School. Before even opening the door, we hear the excited shouts of around 30 middle schoolers drifting out through an open window. We take a deep breath, and submerge ourselves in the chaos that is IMPACT Club Clever.

This week, the club’s meeting starts out with an activity about creative problem solving. Each kid is handed a slip of paper and asked to write down a problem in their life. Then, everyone puts the slips back in the middle, takes a new one, and writes down a possible “solution” to the problem they’ve read. The students begin sharing the problems they’ve been assigned:
Math is hard.
I have a test in school next week.
Or my personal favorite…. I don’t like cheese.

I think that my jaw may have quite literally hit the floor at this point. My mind was racing:

You don’t like cheese!? How about the fact that most of you live in two room apartments with 5 or 6 siblings? Or the fact that that entire space will be heated all winter by a small space heater that can only run an hour or so at a time? Or the fact that if anyone in your family getssick because of this cold, you won’t have the necessary money to pay the bribes your doctor demands for treatment? Or the fact that you live in a country where the upcoming election results will be determined entirely by corrupt men with big bucks to spend?

My thoughts snap back to what is going on around me, and I hear a girl reading a problem: “I don’t like ciorba (Romanian soup).” As a solution she suggests that her friend sneak lots of sugar into it when her mom isn’t looking. All of the kids break into laughter, and once again the chaotic joyfulness of the group stops all further activity for a bit, despite the leaders’ best efforts to regain control. 

Such joyfulness in the face of adversity is a perfectly convicting reminder to truly be thankful for all of the blessings in my life, both today and everyday. There is incredibly beauty in everything that surrounds me- a fact which remains true whether I travel to Iowa, Romania, or the ends of the Earth.

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