We all have those days that are trying in every way possible and when nothing goes our way. Traffic jam on the way to work. Got soaked walking in the rain. And to top it all off, got home just to realize the dog pooped on the rug. The day was miserable… Ruined from the start.
Been there and done that time and again. But every once in a while I get reminded that around the world there are literally billions of people who would love to trade places with me even on the worst of my days. Traffic jam? That means I can drive. Caught in the rain? That means I can walk. Nasty little surprise at home? That means I have a home.
The point is that there is always a reason to smile, but all too often we seem to forget that. Yet, some people bear that in mind at all times and by doing so they spread their infectious joy and love of life to those around them.
Juan Carlos is one of those people. I just had the great pleasure of meeting him this past week during my visit to Villa Hermosa in Cartagena, Colombia. Like the rest of the kids in the community, he faces many difficulties on a daily basis… And he faces them all with a wide smile that has made him a local celebrity and hero.
At barely 18 years of age, he has suffered serious health issues since birth so that his growth has been stunted, his bones and muscles never fully developed and he is unable to walk.
Until just recently, he did not even have a wheelchair to help him get around so he would resort to using a chair as a crude walker. He did this with a smile. Even more recently, he underwent surgery in hopes of being able to walk one day. As he slides himself up in his chair with rods and screws jotting out of all parts of his legs, even as he winces in pain, he smiles. As he sits in a corner of the makeshift shelter he calls “home” (soon to be his former home), water drips on him through the leaks in the roof as it rains. His smile never fades.
Juan Carlos faces the world with an ever-present smile every day, despite the very real hardships he faces. He is my reason to smile. My reminder that no matter how petty or severe life’s challenges may seem, there is always a reason to smile.
Update from the field: Juan Carlos just recently received a wheelchair and will soon be moving to a new home that is being built for him and his family thanks to R. Happy Kids Foundation. Additionally, last week we kicked off the construction of the sports complex we are building through our Games for Change program and we are wishing Juan Carlos all the best in his recovery so that he can make good use of this sports complex right alongside the rest of his friends.