We all have had our moments when we don’t get what we want. Parents wouldn’t buy a shirt for you, or get you a car, or wouldn’t take you to McDonald’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then we throw our little tantrums, run to our rooms, and sit on our beds contemplating whether we should runaway or print out adoption papers. Yeah, we all have had those moments. The worst part is that we don’t even realize how privileged we are. I used to be one of those kids, until I took a trip that changed my point of view forever.

April of 2017 my family and I took a trip to our home country, Sierra Leone; a small country on the west coast of Africa. This would be my third time traveling there, yet so much different from all the other times. I guess it’s true what they say… third time’s a charm. Now my dad had always told us his stories of rags to riches, but they never truly sank in. We had heard them so many times. He had a huge family; 32 kids, one dad, five moms, no money, and barely any food. My uncle took us to where he grew, a village called Lunsar. Deep into the tropical forest was a school, but not like one I’d ever seen before. It was made of branches, twigs, and hardened mud; very tiny and not stable. It was basically a room with a roof over it. My uncle introduced us these kids from ages 5-13, they were the students. They couldn’t speak English or Krio, a form of pidgin used around the country, worn torn clothing, didn’t have shoes, and ate food off the floor; they were literally sharing food with the bugs. But that didn’t break my heart… it was the fact that they were happy. They were confused as to why we were there, but all of them were laughing and smiling and singing to us despite the language barrier and the strangers staring. These less fortunate kids were enjoying life more than I ever have with all my treasures. That hurt me… a lot… and it still does. My uncle then told us that these kids had inspired so much that he is going to build to a new school for them.

At the time I had been living in Belgium and going back home was hard for me. Those kids were on my mind 24/7… correction… those kids were on my mind 25/8. I wanted to help build that school, I wanted to make those smiles widen more, I wanted to leave my mark. So my siblings and I gathered clothes we didn’t need and shipped them off to those kids. My Uncle Frank sent back a video of those kids crying and singing tribal songs saying “Thank You.” That video is the most precious treasure I will hold with me forever. Before this trip if you asked me what I want to be when I get older, I would have told you I don’t know exactly. Now I know I want to build schools, encourage happiness, and help as many people as possible.

This I believe… I believe that selfless acts open our eyes to the privileges we have. Sometimes we think that the world owes us more than what we get daily. We need to be happy with all of our assets and share that feeling with everyone, and I mean everyone! We need to understand that happiness is more than just materialistic beings. We need to treasure our families, our friends, and our experiences and let that guide us to a more humble life.