Eight thousand miles away from home, I stumbled upon a five-year old girl, hiding behind a tree, peering into my house. As months passed, the entire village began to call her my child, as she tagged behind me wearing my straw bag as a hat, gently placing the tomatoes and onions inside once we reached the market and cheerily toting it back home.
Some students would start to ask, “Is she really your child?” in which I would laugh and explain to them the truth. Though just a joke, “anako” or “my child” began to feel more real (or as real as I can only imagine it would to have a daughter of my own) as my affection for this girl continued to grow. The girl’s smile could make me smile after a long, hot day. The girl’s presence gave me a sense of comfort, as she would watch me cut my vegetables in silence, flashing a smile when I would pause to glance up at her. The girl’s small hand on my lap as she sat down next to me made my heart feel full.
That girl is you.
Sometimes my role in the village felt daunting — making change is easier said than done. Sometimes you must change your own perspective to see change in others. To acheive change you must be persistent and patient. Change requires trust and teamwork. Change can be found in many forms, big or small. Sometimes you can see it and sometimes you just feel it. Each day, you reminded me that change is possible.
I watched you grow. You learned simple manners, like knocking before entering a house, washing your hands and covering your mouth when you cough. You respected others’ space by sweeping after a mess was made and putting things away after they are used. You gave your friends someone to look up to and soon they began to resemble a lot of your positive behavior. We practiced English just for fun and soon your language skills surpassed those of many middle school students. The community noticed and was amused and simultaneously impressed. Though very tiny, you were a symbol of change.
The time has not come yet, but soon my mornings will no longer include a gentle knock on my door from you, smiling outside, patiently waiting to be invited in. Soon, we will not be in each other’s company and I will no longer be able to watch as you grow into a young woman. But from the time we have shared together, you have given me hope — hope that you will grow up to be a woman who respects her peers, who values her education and studies hard, who inspires others to always try to be the best person possible. If there is any hope in making change here, it is up to you and the youth of this village. If anyone can do it, it’s you.
Thank you for giving me hope. I couldn’t ask for a greater souvenir.
Rene’o’, your mother