The plane landed in Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport on June 24th at 2:37 P.M. I looked around and saw cacti and emptiness. I was slightly disappointed, to say the least. Vast stretches of desert spread for miles. I drove two hours to arrive at a circle of brick houses. Cars were replaced my horses and carts. Buildings were replaced by clay houses, cool winds by a blistering sun, a paved road by a rocky path. Wifi was nonexistent. It was only me and my camera.
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One especially hot evening, I drove for about half a mile and arrived at another circle of houses. The houses were built close together and enclosed by stone walls. Each building was crumbling. It wreaked of horse manure and peppermint. As I waited in my car, I looked around. I saw donkeys, stray cats, and wandering people. Despite all these extraordinarily strange happenings, only one thing caught my full attention.
A young boy was playing with a skinny white kitten. He kept stroking the cat’s back with a stick. The cat, unmoving, purred. It was familiar with him. This was peculiar because in other parts of the city that I saw, people struck the skinny cats and revoked their pleas of hunger. Here, the community, the boy, accepted the creature with a warm welcome equal to the one they offered me.
The boy was soon joined by two other children, a pensive taller girl and stern younger boy whom I assumed to be his siblings. They played with the cat and threw their heads back in laughter. I wondered what they were laughing about. The girl saw me staring first. She summoned the others.Their eyes were wide open as they clutched each other. They seemed mesmerized by the largeness of the van and the pale girl sitting in it. The only thing separating us was the glass of the car window. At that point, I didn’t now which side I wanted to be on.
Instinct made me do something I no one expected: I waved. They smiled, and waved back. But these weren’t just normal smiles: their smiles were genuine, friendly, and humble. Something I’d never encountered before.
The car ride back was silent as I thought about those children. I thought about how poor they were. The boys were covered in dirt, and the girl’s hair was pulled into a tangled mess. Their feet were caked in mud, but this did not hinder them from running freely across the rocky sand. Despite all of this, they were happy: something I cannot say for people in Boston who are so much more blessed than they are. People who have air conditioning and heating, who do not have to walk miles for a drink of water only to find a well of murky liquid, people who have cars and clean clothes and electricity and enough food in their fridge to feed that entire village for one week.; people who are so incredibly blinded by what they don’t have that they can’t see what they do. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and so it goes for everything else. Someone could have pitied these children for their raggedy clothes and rickety houses. But I saw something much greater, a blessing that could only be bestowed on the most grateful human beings.
It is not them who are impoverished, but we who must open our minds, our hearts, to see what we take for granted.
Sipping on that thick goat milk, I thought, today is the first day I am truly appreciative.
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