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Memories of Zambia

Hannah Schultz in Zambia

by Hannah Schultz

One of my most vivid memories, which I will never forget from going to Zambia, took place at Hope House Orphanage. It was one of the last afternoons our team spent in the yard playing with the orphans and numerous neighborhood children, who always seemed to come out of the woodwork when we were around.

The orphans started playing a simple game of what looked like "London Bridge is Falling Down" but they took it a step further. Each time the bridge would "fall", the boy or girl who was caught would go and join one of two single file lines that were forming on opposite sides of the yard. Once all of the children had taken their positions on one side or the other, a line was drawn in the dirt and it dawned on me that a massive game of human tug of war was about to occur. With arms firmly wrapped around each other’s waists, the orphans and neighborhood children prepared for battle, each child behind the next. The first person in line from the two teams locked hands and checked to see if their team was secure. With the utmost looks of determination on their faces, the pulling from each side began. After a few seconds or so of struggling and cheering, one team started to lose ground, which gave the other some confidence. With one last mighty pull, the other team went flying over the line in the dirt.

What happened next is something that will remain in my memory forever. From the hearts and out through the mouths of about 40 children came such a shout of celebration and joy I didn't know was possible. It was deafening, not only in sound, but in significance as well. These children with the smiling faces and loud shouts of happiness, are the same children who have lost fathers, mothers and siblings; these same children who battle malaria, suffer from malnutrition, and sometimes live on one meal a day; these same children who do not have access to decent medical care or a good education; these same children who could count all the material things they possess in this world on one hand. It was out of the mouths of these children that such overwhelming joy was being expressed because of the simplest of games. Though I am someone who doesn't cry easily, the tears started to form in my eyes.

Were these tears of joy or sadness? I realized it was a little of both. There was joy in knowing that these children were not bound by the standard of happiness I grew up believing, which says they shouldn't be the ones with contagious smiles on their faces. But there was also sadness in my tears, because I couldn't remember the last time I saw a child back home show this kind of joy. Children who grow up with both parents and their siblings; children who live in a nice house with their own room and own bed; children who have the opportunity to receive a great education and decent medical care; children who have so many toys and possessions that they don't have enough hands to count them on. These are the children that should be the happy ones right? At least, that is what I always grew up believing.

I was challenged that day, standing in the backyard of that orphanage, by a group of children who were oblivious to what I perceived to be such insurmountable hardship in their lives. This experience blew me away, and it shook one of the very standards I grew up believing. It reminded me that if I let the accumulation of possessions or my life circumstances dictate my happiness, I will never be able to experience the kind of joy that the Zambian children display.

With this in mind, I jumped in during the next round and wrapped my arms around the child's waist in front of me, braced my feet, and began to pull with all my strength. I wanted so badly to be on the winning team and experience just a fraction of the pure joy I saw in these children, because I knew it was something I had to bring back home with me. Their shouts of joy still echo in my head since being home, and it helps to remind me that we both have the same choice every day: to choose joy in our circumstances. To them, the choice is simple, they choose joy and every day I am inspired by them to do the same.

Hannah Schultz is a North Park undergraduate student who traveled to Zambia over winter break with University Ministries' Global Partnership program. You can help make this opportunity possible for other students by contributing to a scholarship fund here.

To read more about Hope House Orphanage, go to the Spark Ventures web site.