Culture Travel

Wealthy, affluential, crime-ridden, or poverty-stricken: Every country has this same thing

Walk around a neighborhood in a small town in central Kansas. Or maybe a crime-stricken area of L.A. Or maybe a rural village in the Himalayan mountains of northern Pakistan. Or the war-torn villages around in eastern Burma. Or a quaint neighborhood in a small town in Italy, with walls older than anyone living.

Go anywhere and you’ll see the same thing: kids playing.

The wisdom of children is often something to take note of. Children have many priorities out of whack, obviously, but they also have some priorities much straighter than their adult counterparts. They aren’t afraid to ask questions and learn, they love with their entire being, and they remain profoundly curious about a world that, realistically, we — as grown-ups — don’t know that much more about.

And wherever you go in the world, you’ll find them playing. Enjoying the world that has been dropped in their laps and making the best of it. Sure, a lot of richer American kids have problems with their noses stuck into the phones or tablets their parents bought them, but it’s disingenuous to say that they aren’t playing outside anymore — the percentage may be lower, I’m not sure, but they’re out there. The day before writing this article I drove past a group of kids traipsing around the woods, undoubtedly chasing some grand, mysterious monster, or on a rescue mission for their captured stuffed animals.

Hop over to the other side of the globe, and what do you find? The same exact thing.

Children are resilient. When I was in 8th grade, terrorists attacked my school and killed six people. I think the adults were more traumatized than many of the children — call it ignorance to the harsh reality of the situation, call it strength or resilience — whatever it is, kids have it, and they are immensely flexible because of it. Damage was done to everyone there that day, but the kids were out laughing and joking very soon after. Much faster than the adults.

Children find joy in the darkest pits life has to offer. They seek out the few slivers of entertainment, laughter, or chuckles left even in a war-torn countryside. When I worked briefly in the conflict area in Burma, I saw many such children. They lived in an area that has seen decades of genocide, in the center of the longest standing civil war in modern history. And they grabbed a ball, kicked it around, and laughed as genuinely as I have ever seen anyone laugh.

There are children enduring great suffering out there, and it’s by no means all sunshine and roses. But a child’s ability to take the hand they are dealt and make the best of it — it’s something we could all learn from.

I took this picture two days into the jungle in Karen State, Burma in 2015. Kids there are some of the happiest I have come across — they also lead some of the hardest lives of any children I have come across.

Featured images courtesy of Pixabay.

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2 years ago

“They aren’t afraid to ask questions and learn, they love with their entire being, and they remain profoundly curious…” Happy sigh. And *this* is why I still love to eat at the kids table at Thanksgiving, and I don’t mind being the alien when my nephews want to take their Christmas blasters out for a test drive, or why it never gets old to eat pretend cookies or have imaginary pie fights. They are the good in the world.

2 years ago

So true, the world is a lot more interesting seen through the eyes of a child. Today I’ve been a tow truck, a beached whale (thanks for that one, son!) a bird on a rescue mission and a “moon truck”. That imagination is amazing and it’s a privilege to be along for the ride!

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