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The cool part of working with kids is that while you go in with the intent of teaching, you come out having learned a lot too. At least, that’s how I feel after reflecting on my time spent in Panama through the ACE program. During that week, I had the privilege of teaching volleyball to students at a rural elementary school. Through the kids, I was exposed to a unique way of viewing the world, a worldview that allowed the kids to live joyful and fulfilling lives under less-than-optimal conditions. What about their perspectives gave these kids the ability to live such rich lives? As I thought about this question, one major detail stood out to me — the simplicity with which the kids viewed the world.

The best illustration of this simplicity that I can recall is our first introduction to the kids. My group and I pulled up to the school in our van, unloaded, and walked up the hill to where the kids were playing. Almost immediately, some kids took our volleyballs, others asked us to join their games, and others wanted to be lifted off the ground and into the air. These kids didn’t bother themselves with who we were, where we came from, what language we spoke, or what we looked like. They simply saw new friends that they could play with.

As I reminisce on the week, more and more examples of this kind of simplicity come to mind. On the second day of volleyball camp, it began to rain pretty hard. But the kids didn’t care. They were unbothered by the rain, content with sitting in a circle, playing duck-duck-goose under the cover of a small awning. When learning volleyball, the kids didn’t get frustrated or overwhelmed. They found joy in the attempts to hit the ball over the net, celebrating when they succeeded, and trying again when they failed. These kids didn’t worry about unnecessary details, like what could have been, or what will be. They just saw people as friends and volleyball as a game, and as a result, they were content.

Reflecting on the perspective of the kids has made me aware of my own perspective on life. I tend to overthink lots of stuff. I often worry about how conversations may go before they even happen, I overanalyze every stroke I take in the water, and I get frustrated over failed attempts. But being with these kids has changed my perspective. The kids have taught me not to get caught up in unnecessary details, but to see things simply. They’ve taught me to just talk. They’ve taught me to be happy swimming fast. They’ve taught me to try again when I fail. So, to the kids who I worked with, thank you so much, because you have given me much more than I could ever give to you — you’ve taught me the value of simplicity.

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