His floppy brown hair bounced on his head as he entered the library. His smile was the biggest of any of his classmates as he ran to my side. He quickly grabbed my hand and muttered, “can I sit with you?”––with a bit of southern twang in his little voice.
You would never have guessed that this happy second grader couldn’t read or that the butterfly craft we made would be the highlight of his week. His shoes had ripped laces and his backpack was obviously used and yet his giggle filled every conversation.
Parker had nothing in comparison to items but his joy was overflowing his face. As we colored his butterfly, he switched from talking about his pet snake to immediately sharing about his many siblings.The more we talked, the more stories and jokes he wanted to tell me. He would laugh at memories with his family and get teary when talking about his lost pet snake.
This seven year old had experienced such a different childhood than mine. I grew up in a cul de sac full of kids, while Parker would spend his afternoons alone adventuring in his big backyard. I was reading chapter books by the age 6, while Parker could only write his first and last name. I grew up in the Orange County bubble, while Parker is living in Leslie County, Kentucky.
Our differences could have kept us apart but Parker’s wide, toothless grin intrigued me.This little boy had lived such a different life but was still so happy. His family might not have enough money for proper school supplies or be able to teach him how to read a book, but he was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met.
This little seven year old taught me so much in the hours I was with him. He showed happiness shouldn’t be found in materialistic things as so much of the Southern California lifestyle is. When you realize this you can see the joy you receive from heavenly things such as a beautiful sky or the blessings that God has given you. Even though I’m not sure if Parker is a Christian, I know God calls us to live this way- seeking joy from him and not relying on the happiness that comes and goes in worldly things.
Photo Credit: Brooke Van Essen