As my friend Lindsay and I rode our bikes over muddy, gravel roads through Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the beauty of the green rice fields struck me.
The mountains stood majestically in the background, and it looked like heaven on earth.
At the end of a long rice field, we came across local children who were squealing with happiness as they threw rocks into puddles. The children here always seemed to travel together – with no adults in sight – walking hand-in-hand and laughing, smiling ear-to-ear whenever they caught a glimpse of us. And it wasn’t just the children, I noticed. Everyone we passed had an easiness about them. The people here lived so simply, yet seemed to be so happy.
I was exhausted from the flight back to Singapore, but I couldn’t wait to tell my husband and kids about the children I had encountered… and then I heard it: “Give it to me!” – followed by screaming, and what sounded like someone being catapulted. I entered the living room as a Barbie doll was being pelted across the room, barely missing my head.
“Hi guys!” I said, waiting for someone, anyone, to acknowledge my presence. No such luck.
“Give it to me now!” my younger, 5-year-old daughter screamed as she clutched the bright pink iPad. I crossed the room quickly to put myself between her and her 7-year-old sister, before any one could end up being injured and admitted to hospital. After I wrestled away the iPad, I sat down with the girls, feeling slightly deflated yet determined to share my message. They sat and listened but didn’t seem impressed.
Over the next few days, I often thought of those Indonesian children and their smiles – how they lived without many material possessions, yet seemed to be happier than many people in my everyday life, who, on the surface, “have it all” by modern day standards.
Resolved to make a difference in our own home, my husband and I started changing our daily routines: less TV and iPad time, more colouring and playing UNO with the girls. We encouraged more free play and dance parties, and it was amazing to watch our daughters’ minds expand as they staged talent shows in their bedrooms. My oldest would craft for hours, as if she had a stream of creativity running through her.
Then, on one of those days as an expat, when being far from friends and family was taking its toll, I came home to encounter our household crafter-in-chief busy collecting items to make her latest daydream come to life. Later, she presented me with a glass jar, and I could see that it was stuffed with small pieces of paper.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“It’s a Confidence Jar!” she exclaimed. “Any time you need to feel more confident, reach in the jar and do what it says.” Touched, I decided to take her advice, and reached into the jar and pulled out a small piece of paper. It said: “Give someone in the family a hug.”
Again, I took her advice and gave her a big hug. When I pulled back, I saw it there: my daughter’s big, beautiful smile – as happy as any I’d seen in Indonesia.
By Lenore Mallett, The Finder Kids (Vol. 21), November 2017
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