Two summers ago, on a safari through Tanzania, I visited an elementary school. Twelve of us, all American, climbed down from the bus and filed into a small schoolhouse. High pitched voices filled the room, hands clapped, feet stomped, and thirty children sang before us. The words were in Swahili, and although I couldn’t understand the meaning of the song, I smiled as my eyes roamed their faces.
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Afterwards, some of them invited us to play soccer. Although there were eight teenagers against twelve elementary students, my team never stood a chance. I’ve played varsity soccer since the ninth grade, but I’ve never seen soccer played so effortlessly; as my feet pounded the ground and dirt floated into the air, they scored goal after goal. When the game ended, they fell over laughing. In seconds I was surrounded by little faces and as I knelt among them, their eyes widened and they giggled at the sight of my aqua blue nails. I was unable to talk to most of the kids because they didn’t speak English, but their facial expressions emanated curiosity and delight. A girl, whose name I made out to be Feeora, smiled shyly and tugged at my hair; her face was dirty and dry and her smile was filled with warmth. As I went to hug her, my arms were pushed wider and other children ran into them. Kids were everywhere, and although we were almost completely silent, our eyes were talking.
As I walked towards the bus to leave, my heart was torn. In America we’re so caught up in ourselves and our own accomplishments that although we may be awed by others, it’s uncool to show it. I connect with people by excitedly talking and touching them, and while my friends and I laugh at my goofy interactions, I often wish everyone interacted like me. At that elementary school I was finally able to connect with people the way I wanted to. It was one school in one village, but because of that school and those children I discovered that people are able to interact with one another freely and without judgment. More than anything this makes me want to search deeper into the human psyche and figure out why judgment so influences our interactions and the way we live. I discovered the magnificence of instant acceptance, and I discovered that through children.
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