‘Skinny Rat! Skinny Rat!’ These two simple words, when put together, mean more to me than any other two words ever spoken. The words themselves are not as meaningful as the energetic eleven-year-old who assigned the nickname to me. During the summer of 2006, I was one of the fortunate few from my school to travel to the small village of Punta Gorda, Belize.
The children with whom I spent my time there all had an enormous impact on me. However, one girl in particular, Shamira, forever holds a special place in my heart. The moment I stepped off the bus and into the community center, I realized that the experience I had as a camp counselor at home could not have possibly prepared me for the kids I would be responsible for in Belize.
As I was taking a break from unloading our supplies, a girl ran up to me and asked my name. I said, ‘Lindsay, What’s yours?’ She replied, ‘Shamira, but I like skinny rat better than Lindsay.’ Not knowing how else to respond, I accepted the name, and instantly, a strong friendship formed. Shamira decided she would not leave my side until I got back on the bus to return to the airport.
One night, the women of the community gathered to ‘plot’ (braid) all of the American female leaders’ hair. Shamira tagged along with her mother to the community center. As the other girls got their hair done, I kept the kids entertained by letting them look through my disposable camera.
They were all fascinated by the different view of the world they got through the camera lens. Shamira wanted to take a picture with me and another little girl, but not just a regular picture. She ran over to a small bush behind the building.
She decided the picture would be taken there. At first, I was confused as to why the bush was her choice of scenery, but when she showed me the solitary, beautiful, white flower on the bush and held it in between the three of us, I understood. Months later, when I finally developed the roll of film, I flipped through the pictures and memories and came across this photograph.
It was stunning and soon became my absolute favorite picture. The image that Shamira had designed was not just a fond memory, but also had a much deeper meaning for me. This picture represents the little instants in life that are often overlooked.
It is seemingly insignificant things, such as a nickname or a single flower on a bush that puts a smile on my face and makes me realize that every moment is worth savoring. It still amazes me how something so simple as letting an eleven-year old take a picture to temporarily pacify her can mean so much. Sometimes it is better to keep life simple to force it to mean something more complex.
Henry David Thoreau captures the essence of living a simple life perfectly when he states, ‘Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.’ When people hear about my trip to Belize, they say things like, ‘It’s so great what you have done for those children.’ However, what they don’t understand is what the children have done for me. Since I had to leave Shamira and get on the bus to go home, I have concentrated on living life more simply, focusing more on the smaller gestures, and taking time to notice the little aspects of life such as a single, white flower; as a result, I have found myself happier than ever.
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