What really matters to kids here in Africa? Sure, they would probably love the toys and videos that kids take for granted in the States, but it seems that kids in third world countries need to be extremely creative at making fun games out of nothing. A ball of string or a plastic bottle can provide hours of enjoyment if put in the hands of the imaginative child. They can delve into self made realities based on simple ideas and have a great time messing around with it. Adults often look at this as childish and foolish, but that's what makes it great—they are foolish, and I for one, would be a little happier if we all cultivated our inner fool.
Since I have a lot of free time, besides watching the behavior of bugs, goats, dogs, and cows, I watch the kids do their thing. They don't have video's, much TV, sports fields, or barbies, nor do they experience the anxiety of having, collecting, and wanting. The objects for their games comes from scraps of wire, rocks, rope, tires, and plastic bags that they roll up in an old sock to make a ball. To play Jacks, they dig a small hole in the dirt, collect 10 small rocks, throw one rock up while sweeping the appropriate number of other rocks in the hole, and then catching the thrown rock. I used to love playing Jacks, so I tried it with them, and it was great playing jacks in it's primitive form. They build toy cars out of wire and coke bottles for wheels, and walk around the village with their cars pretending. Yet, no matter what their surroundings are, kids are kids---they will always be goofy, be entertained by simple things, they'll put a new twist on old games we played, and they use their imaginations to turn their worlds into fantasy---and that is what matters!
So what makes us value things so much---our laptops, jewelry, momentos, things we think we can never replace are the things that seem to matter as adults---it almost becomes obsessive. When I shed half my life before coming to Africa, it was almost a relief---the weight of the world was off my shoulders. Now all I preserve is nostalgia! I go back and forth with what I think these kids need, but right now, all I know is that if the modern world's solution to the anxiety of loss is for me to surround myself with things, it is by definition impossible to value---so I think I'll take the road less traveled. And having very little WILL make all the difference!