The screen filled with a beautiful picture of houses painted in vivid shades of turquoise and rolling hills tinted orange from the exposed dirt and in the cent a little girl radiating happiness. It was my first day at my internship with Walkabout Foundation and my supervisor was showing me a video about what the organization did. The apartment turned office space was dark and gloomy thanks to the overcast weather typical of London winters. The smell of stale cigarette smoke from the man who always smoked in the hall was creeping its way to me seat, but I could not take my eyes off of this girl.
She was seated in a brand new jet black wheelchair made from spare bike parts. Her dark skin was tinted orange from the dust in the air, her legs hung limply off the side of the chair and her mouth was stretched from ear to ear in a big beautiful smile. She had never known the freedom of mobility, and was forced to rely on others to be her legs, which meant that more times than not she was left behind. The look on her face didn’t just show the happiness of a young girl getting a new toy for the first time, it expressed the freedom to live a more normal and uninhibited life.
Growing up my friends and I would spend one week each summer on a mission trip, often working with an organization that provided a service to people living in poverty. We would spend long days out in the beating hot sun building houses or handing out clothes to homeless people.
All of my friends came from families like mine and every Sunday after church we would all go out to eat and catch up. There has always been stability in my life and in the lives of people around me. More than stability there has been excess. We always had new clothes and shoes to wear to school at the start of the year, if we needed new cleats for soccer we would get them and we were able to travel with our families.
While on the mission trips though, I was able to see the juxtaposition to my life and the lives of the people we encountered. I saw first-hand the struggle that some people have to go through just to have the basic. I met veterans who were affected with PTSD and as a result became addicted to alcohol or drugs, and immigrants who had come to the United States to find a better life for them and their family. I saw another side of life that I was not exposed to in the small world that I lived in.
Looking at the picture of the little girl in the wheelchair I remembered those mission trips, and what they had meant to me in high school. I remembered how they had inspired me to do more with my life, and the desire to help those who needed it most. This little girl reinspired me to find a job with meaning and purpose.