This I Believe

Bethann - Johnson City, Tennessee
Entered on April 11, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in being grateful for what you have.

I’d always considered myself less fortunate than others. I never wore the most expensive clothes, my parents didn’t drive fancy cars, and we didn’t live in a ritzy neighborhood. Throughout elementary school, when classmates made fun of me for not having a designer wardrobe and not being a member of the country club, I would think, “If I just had that shirt…” or “If I just lived in that subdivision, everyone would stop saying mean things to me.” I maintained this outlook until an experience in Reynosa, Mexico helped me gain a new perspective.

On the fifth night of my trip, I was sitting on some dilapidated steps outside the village church, enjoying the sunset when a five-year-old boy in ripped blue jeans and a faded t- shirt appeared. I’d seen him a few times during the previous days but had not given him any special attention. However, this particular night, as I was allowed a closer look at him, I saw the toughness of his bare feet and how they appeared permanently covered in dust from his running along the gravel road. “¡Hola! ¡Me llamo Miguel!” he called as he scampered toward me. He seemed remarkably enthusiastic.

“Me llamo Ana,” I responded in my Southern accent, amused at his exuberance. He extended his grubby little hand, which contained an unopened bottle of Pepsi. Miguel knew no English and my Spanish vocabulary was limited; nevertheless, through much miming, I understood that he wanted me to open his drink. I did, he mumbled a “gracias,” and quickly ran to rejoin the soccer game in the middle of the street.

A short while later, Miguel returned. Without saying a word, he dug deep into the pockets of his jeans, and after an intense search, produced two dirty, overstretched rubber bands—the kind that most people wouldn’t think twice about tossing into the garbage; however, it was obvious that he treasured them. He placed one around my wrist and stuck his own hand through the other. Then, holding his wrist against mine, he tried to illustrate the fact that since we had matching “bracelets,” we shared a bond. Touched, yet somewhat bewildered, I gave him a confused look. He then pulled out the lining of his pockets and shook his head, indicating that he had nothing more. Shrugging his shoulders and giving me a wide grin, Miguel scampered away with his “amigos.”

That was the last time I saw Miguel. It’s neat how a little boy with two rubber bands, who didn’t even speak the same language as me, could show me that life is so much more than designer clothes and million dollar homes.

I still have that rubber band. It hangs on my mirror, serving as a daily reminder of Miguel and what he taught me. I’m reminded to be content with what I have and to always be willing to share my treasures with others—just as Miguel did with me.