“May the world go around with your smile- unknown

Calderon, Ecuador

So I’m going to start out my journal entry with a little excerpt of my own personal journal, outlining my two goals from our first day together. As you may or may not have noticed, I tend to talk a lot, so here’s the unabridged version of my three-word goals:

I think there’s a big difference between learning about children and learning from children. There’s something we can all learn from the naivety of young children. Ignorance is bliss, right? They have so little- practically nothing- yet their joy is infectious and inspiring. It’s something I can’t wait to witness firsthand, I think the idea of it will sink deeper and allow me to be more grateful- or at least aware- of the privilege I have.

If I can help bring joy to others, I think I will personally be more content with myself, and note further whatever I will be able to get out of with the idea of simplistic joy that I talked about with my other goal. I don’t care who it is that I make smile; I just want to make people smile, to see that tangible form of joy- even if just for a second.”

And I think I expected it to be as easy as that. Easy smiles and piggy back rides. What I failed to recognize— and tend to always do because of expectations I unconsciously set—is that it’s a hell lot more than that. I think I expected to be in a state of utter admiration at these children, but what I didn’t realize was that I wouldn’t have time to stand back in admiration. Runny noses, incessant crying, legos being thrown, running with scissors… and all progress hindered by the language barrier.
It’s been a lot of work, and for me, hardly with enough time to reflect. Other team members have helped me realize throughout the past week that I’ve been trying too hard, and I have to just let the kids come to me. Our team goals really ring true with me, I think. I have to find patience within myself instead of wasting my energy trying to please everyone else. And it really has gotten easier since then.
Sure, Anthony—the four year old who many of you know as the one with the mushroom haircut who craves attention—spent the entire interval between breakfast and snack today crying for no apparent reason, but he eventually stopped. And that’s all there is to it. In that time, I wasn’t able to make Anthony stop crying, or even help him focus on his artwork. But in that time, I got to know some of the other children better instead of devoting all my energy on just one of the seven. And that’s how we have to look at it.
I find it hard to be gratified with the work we are doing, and constantly find myself wondering whether or not I am making a big difference in these people’s lives. I find myself living life as a series of memories in the making… Always thinking about how I can’t wait to share the stories and the photos. I need to start focusing on breathing, on living in the moment. I’m waiting to get something out of this experience, expecting not only to be able to run an extra mile when I get home because of the altitude difference, but also, like I said in my goals, to be more aware and gracious.
I think once I start focusing on the present moment, I will begin to learn to be more tolerant of Anthony’s tears, Abel’s tendencies to not listen, and all the other quirks of the other children.
A singer named Jonah Matranga, who one of my really good friends back at home knows personally once said:
“I am most definitely naive, and proud of it. I am also very pragmatic and rational, but I think being naive, keeping that child-like core, is important for keeping any sort of moral center.”
And once I learn to keep my child-like core, I will begin to joyfully serve the children.

By Zoe

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost. There is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.

-Henry David Thoreau
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