Our children are all gifted with different abilities, different drive and different motivation. Our job is to help them discover their potential and the opportunities afforded them. In this country, the opportunities are abundant. We want to give our children everything they need to be happy and successful.
Living in a town of affluence has offered numerous teachable moments to me. It seems that every day, another massive home is erected, another hummer in the driveway. My children have, on many occasions, inquired as to why their friends have this or that and they don’t; seeing life as ‘not fair.’ My answer is always the same; it depends on which shoulder you look over. Look over this one, and it appears as though you have been short changed, but glance over the other one and see the child who is hungry, friendless or afflicted with and illness, and suddenly you feel rich.
This morning, I watched as 152 girls who had endured unspeakable childhoods were handed an opportunity; one that our children have as a right. A television interview aired displaying the opening of the Oprah Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. 152 girls ages 11 and 12 crossed the threshold to a new life, a chance, a dream. The faces of these children were remarkable to me. Their lives had consisted of rapes, beatings, losses, hunger and poverty. Many had lost their parents. Many had seen the ugliest side of humanity. And yet, instead of feeling defeated and hopeless, they excelled. These girls had been chosen as leaders; survivors of the unspeakable.
Before the Academy and in spite of their circumstances, they diligently committed to themselves and to their future by excelling in their schools. Some were beaten daily by peers for their accomplishments. Some started and ended each day hungry and slept each night on the floor. Instead of allowing their lights to be extinguished, they somehow burned brighter. Each of them embodied a spirit so strong and rooted in faith; it shone through the dimmest of circumstances. It is remarkably similar to the light that emerged from the lowest of birthplaces; a smelly dirty stable that brought forth hope and truth.
They stood and spoke at the opening ceremony about commitment, hard work and gratitude. They smiled and laughed and showed no signs of the difficult lives and sadness they had known.
When asked what their favorite song was, they unanimously agreed on a song called “Hold On.” It is a song about how to hold onto Jesus when the times are tough. My daughter and I sat glued to the television as the school bus in front of our house came and went. We talked about her “choice” of breakfast and of which pair of shoes to wear and how these girls were lucky if they had any food or shoes at all.
On the drive to school, we talked about the little girl whose home was shown in the interview. It was clear that she was immeasurably grateful to have food and a bed and a chance to learn. She was given the opportunity to take everything God gave her and put it to work and was eager and committed to be the best person she could be. I said that I was sure that because she was given a chance, she was going to make something of her life.
“Wow,” Cadence said staring out the window, “kids here have that chance every day and they don’t even take it.”
Perhaps the difference is that we don’t have to search for opportunities; they are so prevalent and so large that we don’t even see them. In the darkest of places, living means burning as brightly as you can to stay alive and the light of survival is strong.
“I’m going to take all of my chances Mom and be the best I can be!” Cadence said as she closed the van door with a wink and a thumbs up.
Thank you, Oprah, for your compassionate work.
Thank you girls for your light, shining all the way to my daughter.