I never expected that the day would come when I would finally appreciate my life for what it is, instead of what I wished it to be.
That day, however, arrived when I least expected it, during a class trip last month.
I had taken a peace class out of curiosity and was more then intrigued at the thought of taking a class trip to Tijuana one Saturday.
Tijuana?! Why, what a great idea, I thought. What a great place to bargain and to get out of the country.
My heart stopped though when the teacher explained the trip.
We were going to assist the volunteers at an orphanage in La Gloria.
I admit that I got a little uneasy at the idea. The images that cascaded into my mind were plentiful.
It’s not that I hate children, but the thought of having to see children living a life completely different from mine as night is from day was more than weird.
But the chance to offer something other than money or pity, to give a part of myself, even if it meant giving up a Saturday, was too much to miss.
The drive south went by sluggishly at first. But when California changed into Mexico, my mind took in the poverty, the pollution and the hidden troubles of a different country and went wild.
What if the kids were so poor and dirty that I couldn’t hide my disbelief?
What if I was so unkind that I actually offended someone? What if?
After brief introductions made by the patron of the orphanage, the kids immediately grabbed us and encouraged us to play with them.
My Spanish was not that great, but luckily I had a friend with me who was fluent.
Our kid was named Raul, and he was about four.
His nose was runny, his nails were dirty, but his smile was so eager and honest that I couldn’t help but smile back at him. We spent the next hour or so sliding and swinging in the orphanage’s play area.
Although the orphanage wasn’t all that bad, I was utterly depressed to see the type of play area they had.
Sure there were swing sets and slides and toys, but the fact was that the kids had to play in complete dirt.
Balls that were being thrown around rolled down steep hills.
Old toys that lay forgotten were full of dust.
And the area surrounding the wire fence protecting the orphanage was seedy-looking.
What struck me and even made me shed a few tears, was when Raul grabbed a little toy train from the ground.
He offered it to me after he showed where the button was to push.
I pushed it, and the alphabet song began to play.
I gulped back my salty tears because this was the same exact toy that I had played with another little boy my boyfriend’s brother.
But unlike Raul’s dusty old train, my boyfriend’s brother’s little toy train had been bright and clean, and it was part of a complete set, not a sad-looking remnant that was meant to be shared with 40 other kids.
I was choked up once again later that day when I got the chance to play with a toddler girl named Evelyn.
She was beautiful and refused to leave my side.
I finally had to sneak my way out from behind her to escape to the safety of the van.
Although I admit I’m a coward, I know that I’ll remember this day as one unlike any other.
I finally was given the chance to be thankful for my blessings, the gifts and privileges that I have always possessed.
Why does this day, which took place a year ago, come to mind now?
I guess the specter of war makes me think about those children.
And it makes me wonder why our government wants to waste its efforts on wars that will result in more destruction, when the true weapon to heal the world has been within us all along: our hearts.
Jaclyn Roco, a senior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.