It’s been a month since I came back from my Cambodia expedition. But I can still see the smiles of the children vividly and hear them laughing heartily in my ears. Oh gosh, I do miss them a lot.

The smiles they wear on their faces are so different from what I see back here where I lived. It’s not the kind of smile you see from a colleague from another department along the corridor nor is it the kind of smile you get from a distant relative at a family gathering. They are smiles that warm your heart, smiles that brighten your days and smiles that you want to see again and again.

I can’t help it but ask myself why? Why do they smile the way they smile despite the conditions they are in? They do not have proper flushing system, potable tap water, air-conditioners and the list can just goes on.

My first thought was that the children are just ignorant about all these stuffs. But I realized I was wrong soon enough. They knew, from television, from other people like us who visited them. On top of poorer living conditions, some of the children lost one of the parents or sibling(s) at a tender age, do not have enough money to go to school, and/or have to help their parents out in the farm or work. I would never say they live a comfortable life without worries. So what put those smiles on their faces?

Then I went on and guess that maybe they are contented with their present life styles. But after talking to some of them, I realized this is not entirely true. They do seek for a better life. They have dreams. Dreams of becoming someone big, dreams of having a larger house, dreams of moving to other parts of the world. They have the desire of breaking out their poverty cycle. So what put those smiles on their faces?

Through my 2 weeks of interaction with the kids, the answer begins to dawn on me. It’s a sense of Pride. The best word I could think of to describe them is “Warriors”. The beautiful smile stems from a courageous, determined and noble heart. Even though some of them know that it is highly impossible for them to move out of the poverty cycle, they still dare to dream and hold themselves up with high esteem, respect and confidence.

My greatest lesson from my “children-teachers” is that to smile or laugh often and much and whenever possible. Smile and laugh right from the heart. Do this favor for yourself. Think of the positive happenings that are so often around you, think of yourself as a courageous and determined person and just smile from the heart. It will magically brighten your day and lift up your spirits. You might just find that you are more ready than before to face the challenges ahead.