What’s Really Important: Lessons From a 12-year-old

A few weeks ago, I thought that my next post was going to be about my New Year’s mini-vacation on the Kenyan Coast – Diani Beach to be exact. To sum it up in one sentence: I spent almost a week in a beautiful place where there was plenty of sunshine and I could feel the sand between my toes, eating delicious food and enjoying the company of someone even more amazing than the vacation itself. A picture is worth a thousand words, and I posted a few, so if you’re more interested in my trip to Diani, you can check those out here: https://lifeloveandlists.wordpress.com/photos-from-kenya/

After work yesterday, I knew that my next blog post would be about what one twelve year old girl made me realize after spending the entire day with her.

Meet Moreen!
Meet Moreen!

Meet Moreen. She’s in Class 6 going to Class 7, and since 2010, after her chest and neck area were accidentally burned, she hasn’t had the most normal of lives. Hers is one of the special cases that my non-profit, Village HopeCore International, is taking on and helping with. You can read more about Moreen’s story on a page that will be frequently added to with updates here: http://villagehopecore.org/moreens-story/

Moreen and her grandmother met a coworker and me at her school so that we could ask her some questions then take her to the hospital in town to do a pre-operation check-up. One of my commitments and responsibilities is to be with Moreen every step of the way through her journey to surgery. Though I was nervous about it at first, I was lucky enough to spend the whole day with her. You can read about her background, how her check-up went, and what her future hopefully holds in the article above. Here, on my blog, I wanted to share how she helped me remember some things that I already knew – that I think we all know – about what’s really important.

1. Taking a leap of faith and trusting someone you don’t know everything about.

Thanks to Moreen, we became fast friends.

Moreen trusted me, someone she barely knew, from the very beginning. When I put myself in her shoes, I can understand how terrified she should have been – she had never been to that hospital before, from her screams it seemed like she had never had blood work done on her before, and she was being treated by a (wonderful) doctor from the UK who she couldn’t understand. After she got her finger pricked for a test and started whimpering because it hurt and was unexpected, I wouldn’t have trusted me to bring her to the next room (where her blood was drawn and more screams happened, mind you) if I was her. But she did.

Her teacher had explained to her that I would be her friend, and that I was going her to everything, and I’m not sure if it was that, or if it was because she made a decision then and there to put her trust in me, but she took a leap of faith with someone she barely knew. This leaves me thinking – how much less stressed, skeptic, and paranoid would I be if I just trusted people more? What arguments and worries would I have avoided if I listened to my heart when it told me someone could be trusted, instead of my head when it told me to be insecure. Sometimes, like Moreen, we just have to take a leap of faith. We’re not on this planet long enough to put up walls forever.

2. Being patient, and recognizing that the wait will be worth it.

Moreen waiting as Dr. Dominic takes her history.
Moreen waiting as Dr. Dominic takes her history.

After her blood work was done, we went to the x-ray department so that she could get a chest x-ray done. There was a queue already there, so we figured it would be a bit of a wait…what we didn’t know was that it would be a 2-3 hour wait! That meant hours of us wandering around the hospital and trying not to bother passing patients or doctors, switching seats from one end of the waiting area to the other and making a game out of it, and me trying my best to make conversation with Moreen even though most of the time, all she could offer was a smile. When I started to get impatient towards the end of our wait, she’d sense it and start leading me into another game. Whenever the doors to the x-ray room opened, I could see her look hopefully over toward the x-ray technician, look dejected for a second after he didn’t call her name, then immediately snap out of it and resume whatever game we were playing. This girl had patience. She knew why she needed the x-ray, and that if all goes well, it will be worth it in the end. And the impatient girl who is writing this blog could learn a lot from that.

3. Finding joy in the smallest things.

Showing off her artwork...
Showing off her artwork…
...and her new pens!
…and her new pens!

Before we even got to the hospital, Moreen had to wait in HopeCore’s office building. I gave her highlighters and a piece of paper to draw a picture, and not only did she draw something, but she was damn proud of it. She showed it off to me, her grandma, and one of my co-workers while we were driving to the hospital. When we’d been waiting and walking and wandering together for over an hour and I could tell her patience was wearing thin, she pulled the piece of paper out of her grandma’s bag and looked at it with so much pride and was instantly re-energized. How someone can find so much happiness (during an increasingly-frustrating wait) in something so little astounded me, and it made me realize that my life would be filled with so much more happiness if I could do what she just did – find joy in the smallest things, especially during the most trying of times.

4. Laughing, even though things aren’t perfect.

Nothing has hampered this girl's ability to laugh and smile.
Nothing has hampered this girl’s ability to laugh and smile.

The first thing I realized about Moreen is that she loves to laugh. She’s a little clown, and I could make her laugh in the history-taking room with the slightest of funny faces from over the doctor’s shoulder. Even when I had to ask her to lift her shirt so that I could take photos of her scars, which just emphasized the fact that she is different and parts of her body “need fixing,” she laughed when I told her that she was getting her photo taken like a Kenyan celebrity.

I’m one of those people that, for some reason when something goes wrong, prefers to dwell on what’s not perfect in my life and what’s upsetting me,  one of those people who’d rather commiserate with someone rather than let that person cheer me up. Moreen helped me realize what I of course knew all along – sometimes, when things aren’t going the greatest for you, it helps to just laugh…sincerely and without any worry.

Whenever I need a little encouragement, I remind myself that storms don’t last forever…and I’m praying that Moreen’s will be over soon.

Please continue to follow Moreen’s story, which will be constantly updated, at: http://villagehopecore.org/moreens-story/

Note – Moreen’s primary caregiver, her grandmother, has given permission for these, and the photos on the HopeCore website, to be posted so that Moreen’s story can be shared.


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