Short Stories, Tale Africa

Smile Anyway

By Tashinga Wazara, Zimbabwe:

My alarm goes off, its 7am. I'm slightly annoyed at the fact that it woke me up coz I was having a good dream but I'm also relieved because I need to get up. I guess it's what you could call an inconvenient convenience or is it a convenient inconvenience? I don't know. I open the blinds and I look outside. It's so bright that I have to squint a little. The light is burning my eyes. 'No wonder they call it the sunshine city' I think to myself and I smile.

I can see out in the street from my room and my attention is quickly taken by a small boy kicking an old can on the road and my smile immediately fades away. I recognize him. His name is Tumai and he lives in an informal settlement about five blocks from my house. He is a small, skinny boy, about fourteen years old and he's pretending he's on a soccer field about to score the winning goal. Every now and then he kicks the can into one of the many potholes on the road and he has to kick it out. Many kids his age have already started making their way to school but he's never been to school. The clothes he's wearing are the same clothes he wears every single day and he probably hasn't eaten yet and will have to wait until late afternoon to have what will most likely be his first and only meal. His mother is a maid. Best case scenario he will grow up and become a gardener. Worst case he will end up becoming a drunkard or a thief. Either way, his future is bleak. Yet he smiles. I wonder how he still manages to be happy when his circumstances have automatically put a ceiling on his future. Maybe he doesn't realize it? Maybe he's accepted it? I don't know. How does he live in such dire circumstances and still smile? When I was his age I lived in a nice house, ate four times a day, played with a real football instead of a can and I went to school. I wanted to be an engineer and I had my whole future ahead of me. Tumai's future is limited to the next day yet he's happy. My heart sinks and the irony hits me: such a happy boy caught up in such sad circumstances.

Tumai's image stuck with me for the rest of the day and as I began to reflect I realized that we could all learn something from Tumai. Most of us haven't been dealt a card as bad as Tumai yet we are always constantly consumed by the troubles of life and joy is always a temporary visitor in our lives. If we really think about it, like Tumai, we can't really do much about the circumstances that we grow up in, we do not choose that. We do, however, choose how we respond to those circumstances and how we move on from them. It's up to us whether we are going to mope around in our shack crying about how there's only enough food for one meal or whether we are going to pick up that can and kick it around in the streets pretending we are in a stadium packed with screaming fans, about to score the winning goal. Regardless of what you are going through, choose to be happy. Pull a Tumai and smile anyway.

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