Rotten Smiles, Joyful Eyes

girl with little boy

By: Jane Morgan Sauls

As I sit on the cement slabs stacked in a lousy attempt to form a staircase, I am breathless by the view before my eyes. It is not breathtaking because of its beauty, but because of the destruction that screams so loudly. A measly house made of rotten, wooden planks with a sinking roof formed of rusted metal slabs stands solemnly amid a field of dust. Behind me, a small school painted green is filled with the stories of the children who are fortunate enough to enroll there. In the scorching Belizean sun, my body is covered in chills because, for the first time, I accept that my life is not so bad after all.

girl with little boy

girl with boy

In awe of my surroundings, I begin to reminisce on the transformational day I have experienced. The smiling faces of the innocent children in which I have come to love so dearly instantly come to mind. Although almost every child has a mouthful of decaying, gray teeth, the glimmer in their eyes shows a joy I have never seen before. I feel Bryan’s boney little arms wrap around me for one last time and watch as he hops on his rusty, red bike and rides down the long dirt road to a life I cannot imagine. Jasmine comes up with her silky black hair falling out of the braids worn by the exhausting day. She screams, “Bye, Jane!!”, grabs her little brother by the hand, and they slowly make their way down the long road just as Bryan has. Lastly, after waving goodbye, Benjamin reluctantly makes his way to a man who seems to be his father. The man stands waiting, smelling of cigarettes, with a devilish look on his face, and the child that was overflowing with joy moments ago instantly becomes as defeated as his father.

Still planted on the steps in front of this solemn school, I begin to wonder what life holds for these children beyond the dirt road. I get the persistent feeling that their lives are as lonely and broken as the crumbling house in front of my eyes. However, I am baffled by the fact they are still more joyful than any person living in Mountain Brook. Their smiles are brighter than any I have seen in years. I ask myself, “If these children can be full of so much happiness, why can’t I?” At this moment, I realize something I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life; joy does not depend on your circumstances but on how you choose to look past them and be content in the blessings that are present in each new day. These children live out this truth in that they are overjoyed by every drop of water, every hug, and every person who reaches out to them, despite the impoverished land they call home. Therefore, life is full of its ups and downs, but every person is capable of finding happiness; all they must do is choose to look for the good and praise the Lord for it.


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1 Comment

  • Jaina Noelle


    October 16, 2023 at 2:08 am
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