Gratefulness is a foreign word to many children in America. Many American children don’t understand how easy their lives are compared to children in other countries. Living in the poor country of Albania has allowed me to become more grateful for what I have. When I was eight years old, my mom and I traveled to Ballsh, Albania for a mission trip. After living there for one month, we had the opportunity to continue our service for six more months. Albania is considered a very poor country. Even coming from a poor family, I was still in shock by the living conditions in Albania.
The differences between America and Albania are many. Most families in Albania live in small apartments. Pigs, cats, dogs, donkeys, chickens, and sheep roam the dirt roads and dig through the piles of trash for food. It was not unusual to be within a few feet from these animals in the street. Once I was chased down the street by a bull. (It was one of the scariest moments of my life!) Instead of an organized garbage system, they throw their trash outside their window onto a small area of land outside their apartment where the animals gather to eat.
There are a few simple luxuries that people in America take for granted- water and electricity. Many days I had to endure cold showers because there was no hot water. We would save water in big buckets for the days we didn’t have any. The water was very cold, and we had to be very careful not to waste it in case we were out of water for several days. Other days I had to find new ways to have fun besides watching TV because there was no electricity. Just like any other American child would be, I was bored when the electricity went out because I couldn’t watch television. This inconvenience and deprivation did not affect the children’s happiness in Albania because most of them didn’t even have a TV. A simple rope, box, or piece of wire could satisfy them. Most of the girls liked to jump rope outside. The boys would make their own basketball goals out of boxes and trees, or they would play soccer barefoot in fields covered with rocks because they couldn’t afford shoes. They were grateful for what they had. Anything given to them put a huge smile on their face, and they always showed their appreciation and gratitude. They never complained about what they didn’t have, and always made the most of their situation.
Living in this environment was one of the best experiences of my life, and I believe it has shaped who I am today. I learned so much from the children there. Sometimes in the middle of a warm shower, or when I simply turn on the bedroom light, I remember the children in Ballsh. I am so grateful for what I have. How can an eight year old child see these poor children be so happy when they have nothing, and not be impacted by it? I wish that others could experience life in a poor country. It was sad to see how these children lived, but it changed my attitude when I got back to America.
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