Surprising the Children of China
A boy from rural China marvels at the magic of a digital camera
En route to our first distribution site, I’m lost in thought as I watch the unfamiliar Chinese countryside roll past the van window. It’s not a busy area—nothing like the city of Nanjing we left just 24 hours earlier. The open landscapes and rural roads are a welcomed sight compared to the bustle of the big city.
Suddenly and without warning, our van pulls off to the side of the road. I’m wondering why we’ve stopped when I hear the faint beat of drums breaking the silence of the morning. As I lean forward to look out the window, I’m shocked by scene ahead. A full brass marching band is waiting to greet us. A massive crowd also awaits our arrival—more people than I’ve seen all morning. The van door slides open, and the commotion spills into our once-quiet vehicle. My excitement builds as I climb out of the van and grab my camera.
The band leads the way. As we’re ushered down a dirt path, an older woman grabs my hands. She speaks in a language I don’t understand, and though her words mean nothing to me, I don’t need a translator. Her face says it all. Gratitude. Deeper gratitude than I can ever remember seeing. She humbles me, and I want to talk to her, but I’m crippled by the language barrier. Without a translator nearby, all I can do is flash her a smile and hope my message is received with the same authenticity as hers.
As we approach the church, I see people rushing inside to make sure they get a seat and receive their Bibles. As I take a step back to snap some pictures, I catch a young boy giving me a quizzical look from a short distance away. I realize that he probably hasn’t ever seen a foreigner before.
His curiosity must have gotten the better of him, though, because he cautiously starts to make his way toward me. I snap a picture of him.
As I extend the screen of my camera toward him, his confusion increases. But then, his eyes widen. A wave of understanding flashes across his face, and he recognizes himself. Pure, unabashed joy replaces his confusion.
He smiles broadly for his next picture, then runs back to me so he can see himself, laughing the whole time. This game goes on for a while, thoroughly entertaining both of us. Smiling, I realize that kids are kids, no matter what part of the world they’re in.
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