Whereas an average American child might not consider the supplies we brought to camp particularly remarkable or envy-worthy, two kids from Gyumri refocus our city-dweller perspectives. Those two young boys, who unfortunately were denied entrance into the camp due to space limitations, happened to jump through the window of our office and steal two deflated soccer balls before disappearing from the school.
Of course, every child should be taught theft of any sort wrong, immoral, an undeserved gain, yet, as has already been mentioned, this particular instance, along with any interaction I’ve experienced so far in Armenia, relies heavily on challenging your perspective. Imagine a room full of personal belongings, several purses filled with cameras, cell phones, wallets, passports, you name it, even a laptop equipped with wi-fi capabilities, just lying unguarded for the taking. Then imagine thrown carelessly in the corner an unassuming cardboard box full of drug-store quality soccer balls. Most people would either have to squint or would not even care to cast a second glance at the yet-shapeless toys. But not those two children who, although their only unsatisfied desire within that entire treasure trove lay deflated in the corner, we must inherently call thieves and punish in order to set an example.
How the balls were retrieved or whether the kids learned their lesson does not concern me. What matters more is the lesson I took which taught me to value every single slice of bread, every single piece of chalk, every single line in the childrens’ notebooks as if they were as important as the laptop conveying this message. The purity and humility of the students astounds me daily. Watching their hesitation as they sit on the ground for games like Butt Volleyball in case their pants should get ruined, or their timidity as they sit down for lunch, some even preferring to fake full stomachs when the food provided conflicts with their food allergies, makes me so lucky to be able to call such proud children my own, my nation’s future. Without taking more than they need, at least at present, these kids demonstrate the modest yet noble perspectives which should frame the future of any happy society. Today, Armenia fights to regain much of what she lost of her ancient heritage through years of war in regions like Karabakh and Western Armenia. I hope we can follow the example set by the two boys from Gyumri, taking what is most precious to us and not being blinded by greed.
After all, doesn’t everyone have the right to the happiness won from a single, coveted soccer ball?