There is something about being ambushed by dozens of six year olds, just short of an hour after waking up. I walked into the kindergarten classroom at Christel House, face to face with a sea of huge smiles, singing and wishing me a “super day”. I sat and watched as the kids went through what appeared to be their daily routine, discussing their weekends and singing the hokey pokey. On the surface – aside from their extreme and obvious openness, the children seemed no different from those that I have encountered in the US. They seemed so innocent, so completely and blissfully unaffected by their unfortunate environments. This innocence touched me deeply, and I wished for them that they could remain that way forever. I wished that they could keep their youth even as they grew, and with that their silly smiles despite any hardship they may have to deal with.
Throughout the day, I had many significant thoughts and moments of awareness that stood out to me. One of them following a discussion I had with the kindergarten teacher. She brought to my attention several of the students situations, one, for example, was a child being raised by his grandmother. His mother was 19 and addicted to drugs. I found myself imagining this child living his life, growing up with a struggling mother. This instance, however, has been one of many I have had since I’ve arrived here. I found myself seriously thinking about the fact that I have existed on this earth for so long without having the slightest idea of situations like this child’s. It scares me to think that I could have gone my entire life not knowing this child, and the people that live in these townships. It scares me to think that I was so unaware, and still am. How insane is it to think that while I exist, live, breath and brush my teeth everyday, this child’s life exists parallel to mine. At the same moment that I scoop a warm bite of food into my mouth, this child may be feeling hunger pains. He may be missing out on the information at school because he is so hungry. At the same moment I am safely walking around the UCONN campus, or driving in my car, this child has to walk through his dangerous neighborhoods. On a larger scare, it astounds me that our minds can be so limiting. That it truly is up to us how much information and how open we would like to be. I can choose to know only my surroundings and only the environment that I exist in. I can choose to only know my beliefs and feelings. Or.. I can choose to step out of that constriction. I can chose to look outside of myself, break the barriers of my mind and open up to the infinite amount of things that exist around me. I hope this is something that people take seriously. It is amazing, and yes, sometimes upsetting, to think about all the realities that exist outside of our own. I in no way enjoy realizing that there are children like this that live in realities like that, but it is important for me to know that they are there. That my reality is not the be all end all. It is not concrete. And there for it’s possibilities are endless.
All in all I think it comes down to opening your eyes. To looking outside of your own reality to see that life expands beyond that. It isn’t only necessary so that you can grow as a human being, but it is necessary so that you can empathize with everyone else in this world – and share their struggle, because it is yours too.