Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's All a Matter of Perspective

Fearless Husband and I participated in a party for a local Japanese orphanage this past weekend. The First Class Association (the First Class part refers to their rank, not the quality of the members!) provided a really nice party for about forty children, with bowling, tons of food, Santa and presents.

The kids were just amazing. They crowded in the door, looking around in amazement at the decorations, the tons of helium balloons, and the flashing lights of the bowling alley. One little boy was caught in mid-dive by a caretaker--seems he saw the table filled with cookies, candy and cake, and took off like a little round rocket towards the table. The image of that funny little boy in his "happy frog" shirt, caught by an adult arm around his middle, with both arms oustretched, chubby fingers splayed, face split with a huge smile as he reached with all his being towards all that delicious sugar, will stay with me forever, I think.

I snapped pictures and played with children...and picked out the three I wanted to take home forever and ever. I started to get sad, as I realized I wanted to take them ALL home. Poor little waifs. How tragic that they all lived such miserable lives in a children's home, parents incarcerated or incapacitated or dead, never knowing true happiness...

I worked myself into a fine state of tearfulness and pity.

And then I opened my eyes and stopped wallowing in my own perception of what these kids must feel. I watched a group of giggling teenagers, each with a piece of pizza, bring another member of their group a slice before they all chowed down. I watched sturdy little Frog Shirt boy carry on a serious conversation with one of the caregivers, waving his arms for emphasis, a chicken nugget clutched in each chubby fist,ketchup smeared across his face. I watched a very tiny girl with high ponytails on each side of her head and a brown jumper over her polka-dot shirt lug a vivid pink bowling ball to the end of the lane and very deliberately send it towards the pins. The ball rolled oh-so-slowly, and the child turned away to go get another ball. While her back was turned, the slow-rolling ball met the pins...and she got a strike! Everyone around her cheered and clapped. She turned around in surprise, looked at her applauding fans very solemnly...bowed with great dignity, and went back to dragging a new bowling ball towards the lane.

These kids aren't tragic. They aren't sad, or pitiful, or miserable. They're happy children, finding great joy in chicken nuggets, pizza, chocolate cake, helium balloons and an incomprehensible, ridiculous American game with insanely heavy balls. They're not poor little waifs, they're happy, normal children finding great joy in ordinary things. Why should I assume they're unhappy?

I guess it's all just a matter of perspective. And sometimes, I have to shift mine.