This I Believe

Azure - Garrison, New York
Entered on June 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

There was one shelter in Boston that I will never forget. It was for families who were without homes, possessions or any kind of plans. This shelter was what kept them off the street.

It was my first time there. The building had long white halls lined with doorways to tiny rooms. These rooms would hold families of four, five, maybe even six if the children were young. One woman showed us her room. She was a tall, thin Hispanic woman whose face was long and filled with distress contrasted with a baby and two small children with wide eyes and gap toothed smiles. I looked at their faces and saw the cheery optimism seen in any child’s face. I wondered what they were smiling about. I wanted to smile too, but I had only been there a few minutes and could not help but get depressed as I pitied them.

In the “family room” three children sat dressed in clothing that was either too small or too large. Their shirts were dirty and worn out which made the large cartoon characters on them seem old and withered. The three kids were of three different ages but played with the same toy and watched the same show on TV. They also laughed the same laugh and smiled that same ear-to-ear smile. As we walked into the room they giggled and became enthralled with us.

I believe that children have an optimism that could unify the world. This optimism allows them to explore the innocence of childhood no matter what situation awaits them. I believe that children can make a smile out of anything and get a laugh out of anyone. It didn’t matter how unfortunate I saw their lives to be or how stressed and worried their parents were, these children were able to find happiness in each other and in themselves. They were able to get me to look more deeply into their situation and envy the happiness that they imbued on themselves. I believe that each child creates his/her childhood within the environment that he/she is given. I believe that no matter how much darkness a child is given, that child has the potential to discover light.

Listening to stories about the child soldiers in Uganda I can’t help but to get chills of dread. Their lives are heartbreaking and frightening. However, if I look past the terrors they face I can see the normalcy they attempt to create. The smiles the children bear, the songs they sing and the prayers they chant are signs. I believe that with this optimism they can keep their childhoods alive. Although they are being stripped of almost all normal youth, I believe as children they still have this hope, optimism, and even ignorance, which helps them survive day by day. I have learned that I, an adolescent, should hold onto my optimism and always find joy, regardless of the ages I will become and how my ignorance will strip away.