Jianna Bajar, Grade 7 (@ St. Anne Catholic School)
I never really enjoyed surprises. But two years ago, a surprise changed my perspective on life drastically. My family and I were on vacation in the Philippines. It was a lot of fun spending time with my family.
One evening my aunt announced that we were going to special place the following morning. I was very excited, but confused, when my family said it would be a surprise location. That night I went to bed in a bad mood because I was dreading the trip. Surprises were never good, I thought.
My aunts woke everyone up very early the next morning. This made me more moody. After we ate breakfast, we loaded up the cars and headed out. After driving for about an hour and a half, we stopped in front of a popular Filipino fast-food restaurant called Jollibee and ordered lunch. When three employees from behind the counter each carried large bags filled with food to us, I became curious. I looked at my aunts quizzically because I was confused. They thanked the employees politely for the food and we got back on the road.
I remember driving for another hour or so before we reach our destination. When we were pulling into the park, I remember seeing a small and rusty playground and a large worn-out building behind it. The adults all got out and unloaded the food into the building. The whole place looked like an old school. My cousins were carrying and unloading hula hoops, skates, toys, bouncy balls, yo-yos and play things out of the other car to bring inside. My curiosity got the best of me and I ran into the building, too.
When I got in, I was greeted by a nun. I smiled and asked her where the rest of my family was. She guided me into a large room where another nun was speaking to them. I remember that the nun was thanking us for all our help. “Help”? I thought. How could we help an old rundown school? Then I heard her say one word - orphanage.
We were at an orphanage. I looked at my dad with confusion when suddenly everyone stood up. The nun was ushering us out of the back door. I walked quickly and caught up to my dad.
“We're at an orphanage”? I asked. He answered “Yes”.
She's taking us to the girls room to meet them “Really”?
We walked down a hallway to enter a large room filled with bunk beds. I saw three girls around the age of 11 to 14 wearing worn clothes and putting clothes into laundry baskets and cleaning floors.
I don't even do chores! The nun called their names and they came over smiling. The younger girls were laughing, talking, and braiding each other's hair on the bottom of one of the bunks. We introduce ourselves to them. After chatting shortly after they went back to their work. After that visit we went to the boy's room and found them playing tag and doing chores as well. We talked with them about life at the orphanage. One of the older boys explained that every day they wake up early and do chores.
I have never cleaned dishes or done laundry? I felt bad and ashamed.
When we were walking back to the courtyard, I asked the nun how long the children had been orphans. She said that most of them had never had parents. I looked back at the doorway and heard laughter from the room.
No parents? How could they be so happy without a family to take care of them?
I imagined my life without my parents the people I love most. My parents are my rock. It dawned on me how much I have to be thankful for. I also realize that I took the things that meant the most for granted.
The nun tapped lightly on my shoulder. “We still have one more place to visit”, she said gently.
We entered a door made of metal bars. I walked in and saw the windows open. There were cute little babies and young toddlers sitting on the floor playing and laughing. I smiled and walked over to them, sitting, and playing with them. The whole time I was thinking, “these little babies don't have families”. My heart ache for them and all the orphans. I felt so ashamed for things I had done in the past.
How could I, someone with a loving family ever take anything for granted? My family is able to take trips, have food to eat, live in a nice house and have a good education. These kids were growing up without any family and few privileges, but they still smiled every day, thankful for what they had.
When we left the nursery, I ran to my aunts to say I was sorry for being a moody little brat. We went back to the courtyard and found all the kids playing with the toys we brought them. We laughed and sang songs with these kids too. It felt good to make the children feel happy and by bringing them happiness, it brought me happiness too.
When the adults called for everyone to come into the lunch hall to eat, my family and I helped serve the orphans the food we brought from Jollibee. They were ecstatic. Every face in the room was smiling.
My heart filled to the brim with joy when the kids cheered, “THANK YOU!”
When it was time to leave the orphanage, I didn't say “you're welcome” back to them.
Instead I said “Thank You” because those sweet and loving children helped change me for the better. Never take anything for granted. Doing that made me a negative person. When I start to take things for granted now, I look back at that experience and give thanks for everything I have. Even when things don't go my way, there is something I can be thankful for.
Give thanks. Be thankful.