Looking at the pages of a glossy magazine, I realize how lucky and blessed I really am...
| It's Monday morning and I'm stuck in traffic. I have a ten o'clock deadline to meet, the driver ahead of me moves as if he's taking a cruise while chatting a mile-a-minute on a cell phone and hardly pays attention to what he's doing. My patience is wearing thin. Just as I get off the interstate, I hear a low hissing sound, watch the needle of the fuel gauge flicker back and forth and as if things couldn't possibly get any worse, I notice tendrils of smoke dancing from the hood of the car. My radiator is shot, my front tire is busted, and I'm now standing on the curb of a bustling downtown Atlanta traffic, wondering why the fates have deemed it fit to punish me this morning.
As I'm ushered into the waiting room of the nearest automobile service, the solitude is a welcome reprieve, although it does little to lessen the irritation and anger I feel inside. I'm going to miss my deadline. I might not get this job I've longed for all this time. Repairing the car will cost me an arm and a leg, something I cannot afford since I do not have enough funds in my account. I do not want to put anything else on my charge card, as I still have balances accumulating like a rolling snowball every time I whip out that piece of plastic from my wallet. The tight noose of debt, obligation, and responsibility is choking the very life out of me and breathing becomes a little difficult.
However, my glance quickly falls upon a glossy magazine in the middle of the waiting room, and its title has me sitting back in silent contemplation.
'Africa in Crisis'
It's my homeland. My continent. My people.
For a moment, a small part of me resents the image depicted on the magazine's cover. The perpetual impression that most international nations are given is one of a continent riddled with disease, war and poverty. Children and their parents are posed with little more than scraps of clothing on their bodies, their bellies protruding, scabs on their flesh, mere skeletons simply waiting for Heaven's call to the Pearly Gates.
There are young girls, whose faces are hidden because they are ashamed of being rape victims at the age of thirteen, twelve or younger. There's a morbid chorus line of dead or decapitated bodies on the streets while a wailing child sits in a corner, naked and lost. But despite all this, despite their suffering, the knowledge that they might not live to see the next day, one only has to look closely at each image to reveal the hopes within the wide dark eyes of these victims. Some even dare to smile at the camera, a beautiful gesture in the midst of misery, darkness and hopelessness as if whispering that everything will turn out okay in the end. That this life is simply a passing phase and something much better awaits them if they bear it as much as they can.
As my eyes burn with unshed tears, I think of the life I lived as a little girl. I was lucky to be raised in a real home that provided me with good food and water. I was blessed with two parents, two brothers and three sisters. I grew up in a home where my mother's job as a school (English) teacher, and my father a business contractor, was considered a gift and an honor. We were not rich by any means, but we were content and comfortable and did not lack for much. We were raised to appreciate the little that we had and to make the best of it. We were taught the value of love, honor and respect – lessons that were drilled and remain with me to this day. Eventually, my older brothers and sisters became successful enough to move to the United States many years ago, and it was only a matter of time before I joined them – which I now have for ten years and counting.
As I sit and stare at the images the world presents to me in a glossy magazine, I cannot help but consider myself lucky and blessed. While I worry about missing deadlines, one of those children might be on a sick bed wishing for the very air that I breathe. While I curse my ill luck at a burst tire, there's a child who would do anything to have a book to read if not look at the pictures. While I bemoan the use of a credit card, there's a child who wonders where his or her next meal will come from, who is content to wade in murky waters hoping for a drop of clean water.
For these are my people, my continent, and I could very well be one of them – an abstract concept of poverty for other countries to see.
"Ma'am, your car's ready."
I smile and rise to my feet, suddenly feeling so much better about the day's outlook. I might have missed my deadline, I might have to pay a lot for the repairs to my car, but all things considered, I wouldn't have it any other way. I am grateful for my parents who worked hard all their lives to raise their children in a world free of the pain and suffering a country could have provided them. I am grateful for my brothers and sisters who worked hard to build a life for themselves in a foreign country and saw it fit to invite me to join them here with the hope that I'll return to my native country to help in any small way I can.
For I now realize that the hopes and dreams within those eyes and those whispers from the silent pages, are a call to many of us who can do something to help change their plight.
And our reward?
An endless bounty of appreciation from a continent in need; a gift that will remain within us for the rest of our lives.
Word Count: 1022