“I have never seen anyone so happy because of one small gift.”
- Maisie MacMullan, gb connect 2016
The summer before my junior year, I was given the opportunity to travel halfway across the world to Moshi, Tanzania with globalbike’s 2016 gb connect trip. On this trip, I met many wonderful and inspirational people, but now, over two years later, one kid still stands out.
I met Ulemeke after a day of traveling through the local villages and meeting children who could no longer attend school due to their poor health, so I was in somewhat of a slump and completely uninterested in leaving the bus. However, once I saw the kids running outside kicking their soccer ball made of plastic bags and mesh, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist going to play with them.
Our group brought out the indestructible soccer balls for the kids to play with, and while most of the kids immediately abandoned their makeshift ball, Ulemeke continued to play with it. Since many of his friends had abandoned him for their new soccer ball, I went to go play with him. Initially he didn’t talk much, but after kicking around with him for a while, he opened up. When some of his friends came back, he chose to play on my team, and together we were surprisingly successful. After we were done with soccer, he wanted me to teach him a dance. Not knowing many dances and looking for something simple, I chose the traditional chicken dance. Ulemeke was so excited to learn, he grabbed a bunch of his friends, and they all joined in. Eventually, there was a group of kids surrounding me solely because they all wanted to learn the chicken dance. After many of the kids had lost interest, Ulemeke stayed with me and attempted to teach me a handshake. Although I do not remember most of it, I remember his beaming face after I actually managed to do the whole thing correctly.
After we were done playing around, I asked Ulemeke if I could take his picture. He said “ndiyo,” or “yes,” so I snapped a quick picture and went to hug him goodbye. He motioned to my wrist, on which I had my neon pink headband, and then to his wrist, asking for my headband. Of course, I gave it to him and watched as all of his friends reached for his new headband. He let them see it, but never let it go, possibly afraid his friends would try to take it. I have never seen anyone so happy because of one small gift.
When it was time to leave, I unhappily walked to the bus, wishing I could stay, and knowing I would probably never be able to see him again. As the bus pulled away, Ulemeke ran around the back of the bus and waved to me until I couldn’t see him anymore. Since then, I have thought about him almost everyday, inspired by his gratitude and love for even the smallest things. Somehow, one little boy who I had very little verbal contact with was able to completely change my view of the world. I find Ulemeke’s influence now in my daily life, realizing that I am much more appreciative of my place in this world. I have a better understanding of just how lucky I am and do my best not to take anything for granted. I look for ways to make myself and others smile the way Ulemeke did. Whether it’s surprising my brother with chocolate or making my mom breakfast in bed, Ulemeke’s appreciation for the smallest things has inspired me to spread this appreciation. The globalbike connect trip made me more appreciative of the world, and therefore made me a better person.
- by Maisie MacMullan, gb connect 2016
Ulemeke, pictured to the left here in the orange and yellow jersey.
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