Valuable Lessons My life started out like the beginning of a perfect childhood. Both of my parents had steady, well-paying government jobs, we had moved into a new home and even bought a puppy. All was harmonious, until my parents decided we would have a better life in Canada. Leaving behind everything and everyone we knew was probably one of the hardest things my parents ever did for my brother and me. Struggling to fit in and assimilate was least of our problems, trying to make a decent income became a priority.
My parents, who were well educated and accomplished, were compelled to settle for multiple meager jobs like a cashier at a fast food restaurant or a security guard at an apartment building. They held as many jobs as they could, working every day from sunrise to sunset and through harsh winters. So growing up I experienced and lived through an immigrant family’s lifestyle. I thought I had seen the toughest of times until I meet Laura. Although, she has such a heavy burden she never let it get in the way of our happiness and stop her from bettering herself.
We settled again after five years, but once again my parents decided to move to U. S where I became an immigrant for a second time. My second year of high school is when I met Laura. She always volunteered and helped the old ladies in the school library. From afar, she was just a normal girl, who wore the same shoes, sweater and brought the same beatup backpack everyday. She greeted everyone who entered the library with her welcoming, gap-toothed smile; I couldn’t help but smile back. One day I was wondering in the bookshelves and she offered to help me find a book.
I immediately noticed that the drab clothes and torn shoes she wears to school every day. Her clothes were dull and were mended several times just like her backpack. She even had a slight French accent; it became obvious she was an immigrant. She reminded of me when I first moved to Canada. Although I never had to wear used clothes, my clothes were still hand-down hideous, but thankfully, my school had uniforms. We continued to build our friendship by sharing little snippets of each other’s life; the more we talked the more I learned about her.
As it so happens, we took the same school bus to ride home so we continued our many conversations on the ride home. Soon we became good friends and she finally trusted me enough to tell me her entire story. Laura told me she was born in Ivory Coast but grew up in France, she moved to the U. S illegally with her mom desperate to help her grandma in the Ivory Coast. She talked about her grandma and the orphans her grandma takes care of, her father whom she never met… etc. But I remember this one in particular: Laura: “…
I’m not that hungry but I eat a cup of instant noodles everyday when I get home” Me: “CUP OF NOODLES for dinner what about some real food? ” For her it was normal to live of just instant food, she shrugged me off and just simply answered, “we don’t have any” Like I was just told to answer the hardest question in the world, I was so confused, “what do you mean by you don’t have any? You just have an empty fridge? ” She remained quiet rest of the ride and so did I. I did not want to pry her with more questions.
I couldn’t contain my disbelief because she is the happiest person I know and there was no way she is struggling with so much at home. She couldn’t even get aid from the government because on her status in the country. Laura and her mother would rather send money to feed the orphans first than feed themselves. Laura is probably in a worse financial strain than anyone I know, but she shows that there is beauty and acceptance in her poverty and that’s what makes her happy. She can turn the worst of situations into something fun and meaningful.
For instance: after a club on one of the school days she asks me if we can stop at the vending machines on our way to the bus stop. Knowing her situation I offered to buy it for her, “Sure, I have a dollar do you want it? ” She chuckles and says, “nahh | have money,” she turns around and smiles at me as she pulls out a bag of coins. It was filled with nickels, dimes and pennies. “Are you just gonna stand there or help me put these in? ” Me: “you know you can have the dollar right? ” she ignored me and started feeding the coins into the machine. We spent a good 10 minutes trying to reach a dollar-fifty.
After we reached it, we looked at each other burst out laughing at our desperate effort. Then I asked her a question, “Sooo um… where did you get all this change? ” Laura: “I found it… you would be surprised at how many people just throw their money on the ground. It took me like a month to collect this, I’ve been wanting to buy something from the vending machine since forever. ” She giggles. “She OFFERS me some of her snack while I was staring at her in awe. There was no way I would accept her month of hard work, so I bought another one and gave it to her.
I have never met anyone with an enormous burden like hers. Laura taught to be grateful for what I have and find joy in the littlest things life as to offer. Laura made me realize how privileged I am to go home to find freshly cooked food or how having that one extra dollar can bring so much satisfaction. She taught me lessons that no one else can teach me. She taught me how contagious a smile can be, how to share even if it means you have to split a penny and most importantly how to stay happy despite everything else.
On top of everything else in her life, she graduated high school early and she excelled at it. She took college level, honors classes, did literally a 1000 hours of volunteer work and dreams of becoming an aeronautical engineer. Just being around Laura encourages me to be the best I can be, listening to her life makes my “issues/problems” sound irrelevant and gives me no excuse to slack off. She has inspired to challenge myself and chase after what I want most. Laura is a valuable friend with an incredible story and I know she will achieve whatever she sets her mind too, no matter how impossible it may seem.