Her fingers seemed to be permanently stained. Living in the dirt and trash and muck will do that to you, apparently. She was eight years old and spoke no English, though she would attempt to repeat my words and looked adorable doing so. I taught her to say “Jesus loves me” and “I’m beautiful.”
Her name was Corina and her joy made being on the other side of the world worth the while. Four years ago, I spent a month near Targu Mures, Romania and visited her nearby village a few times each week. I had the privilege of playing with Corina and dozens like her; each time I saw them, my heart melted.
I had seen pictures of poverty before. Having grown up in American suburbia, I was exposed to the news. Yet, poverty was something that did not seem to affect me. It was foreign, and distant.
Poverty like that, in that manner, was somewhere else affecting someone else. It was contained in a box outside of my life and daily routine. My worlds collided, and there it was, right in front of me.
Children ran around, some of them clothed, some not, all of them dirty. The few children between eight and thirteen held constantly crying babies. Parents paid no heed as dozens of kids flocked to us for attention.
Despite having no possessions, and likely no opportunity, Corina smiled. Maybe she was unaware of her situation and naïve of the uncertainty of her future. Or perhaps, she simply was unconcerned and unwilling to worry. Her joy was infectious; her excitement exuded from her entire being.
I wondered how she could be so happy with nothing while people with much more are discontent. Seeing her carefree manner taught me a lesson, one that sounded cliché, even in my own mind, but held true.
Sometimes, the small things are what make life
amazing, good, and beautiful.
Corina was happy just to play with a dozen twenty-something year old strangers. She was happy to have a hand to hold. Her face lit up when I twirled her around or hugged her.
It was humbling to see such joy in the face of such hardship. A longing to love the little things and see the beauty in all situations rose within me. I never thought I would learn such a valuable thing from an eight-year-old gypsy, but I was wrong.
Isn’t it funny how that happens? How humbling. I love how different people, situations and places teach me lessons.
Corina’s joy spurred me on to look at my own life, my stewardship, and the way I live. It made me question my priorities and my expectations.
My hope is that I never forget her joy, despite life’s unending trials.