Perspective

Anna Owusu, March 15, 2013

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It was a seven year old who opened my eyes and taught me one of the greatest life lessons. I was in Ghana with my husband, who was born and raised in West Africa. While English is the official language in Ghana, many people in rural communities seemed far more comfortable with their native language. The children were learning English in school, so they were eager to practice it with me. They would come to the road side as I passed by saying hello and asking me how I was. It was easier for me to communicate with children and their limited English than some of the older adults.

My seven year old friend would join me in the afternoons after school. He liked to play with my phone and was especially interested in the camera feature. He loved to take "selfies" and other random items in a room. He proudly showed me his grandfather's new refrigerator, explaining to me that it was an "American fridge". He was so impressed with that refrigerator, but the truth was I had never seen a refrigerator that miniature in someone's kitchen in the United States. I saw that what I often took for granted was something that brought such pride to this young boy. I never thought twice about my fridge. I opened it when I was hungry or thirsty and closed it when I was finished. I realized that it was more than likely that his grandfather was one of the only people within the community that owned a fridge.

One afternoon he was looking through pictures on my phone and asking me about my family. He looked at a picture and asked me if that was my parent's home. I told him it was. He slid to the next picture and asked me if my parents have two cars. I told them that they did. He asked me if I had a car. I told him I did. He looked back at the phone and considered the information. It became painfully apparent to me how aware he was of our lifestyle differences. Seven years old. I felt foolish for "needing" more money in my bank account or a flashier car. I felt silly for "needing" that cute pair of shoes or that beautiful handbag. While it's ok to want those things, I had to reassess what I was "needing" them for.

When I returned home nothing seemed more beautiful than warm, running water. When I flip a switch the light will come on...always. When I am cold I adjust the thermostat. When I'm hot, I turn on the air conditioning or sit in front of a fan. That seven year old boy doesn't have all these conveniences and he doesn't have all the things I "needed", but he always has a smile on his face. He is always laughing and telling jokes and he is always showing kindness to his little sister as she follows him around. He's only seven, but he showed me wisdom far beyond my years. He reminds me to be grateful for every amazing part of my life. And it always feels better to acknowledge all that I have than to focus on all I think that I am lacking. While I couldn't give him all the treasures of an American lifestyle, the least I could offer was tuition assistance, so he could hope and begin to create opportunity for himself.