A Personal Essay, by our Research Writer & Editor, Dr. Jade Keller
When my husband and I decided to move to Thailand so I could start working with a nonprofit to help end child trafficking, we were both exhilarated and terrified. We had each traveled to Thailand, and I’m half Thai, but neither of us had ever lived anywhere outside the U.S before. We were leaving the home we knew, to chart something that was largely unknown. We could do this because we knew we were lucky enough to have family on both his side and mine, who would support us no matter what. If our grand experiment turned to giant failure, we knew we’d have a soft place to land. It was that knowledge, and that security, that gave us the confidence to seek out something far beyond our boundaries.
We know that our circumstances are not ordinary. Whether you call it luck, blessing, or privilege, it’s a situation few have within their reach. For many of the students we work with, basic security is the dream. Not having to worry about where they’ll find money for food, or school, or medical assistance is the dream. When you’re scrambling to survive, there’s little leeway for grand adventures, or bigger ideas than just getting through the short-term. It can be daunting to even imagine a long-term. But when the basics are accounted for, then it becomes possible to imagine how far you can stretch and reach.
When our son was a baby, we had to be so careful with where we allowed him to play in Thailand. Many outdoor playgrounds near where we lived had rusty or broken equipment and mosquitoes carrying dengue fever. Smoky season meant months cooped indoors. Often the only place we felt safe allowing him to play was in the indoor playgrounds in malls, which we knew were kept clean, with quality equipment. We lived in the mall. When we traveled back home or to other places like Germany, however, we knew stringent regulations meant the sand in sandboxes was safe, that the equipment was looked after and kept up to date, and there were no critters carrying disease. This was another way that just a little bit of security meant we had freedom to let our son roam and explore – and we had the freedom not to worry. It changed our orientation as parents from one of hovering, over-protectiveness, to relaxed confidence as he tested his own boundaries and learned about the world. In that regard, it was obviously a much healthier way to parent.
Having that basic trust about the goodness of the world around you is a very different situation from fearing that everything around you carries hidden dangers. Being able to trust that the ground beneath you is secure makes a big difference in the willingness to take on a challenge, explore new territory, and make bold choices. Even more, when you know you’ve been afforded opportunities outside the reach of others, it can make you want to help others have the same chances.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll share stories about some of our students, in which you’ll see this theme unfold: that the generous support of donors like you has provided the secure foundation that is lacking for vulnerable children, and it has allowed them to stretch and reach a far greater potential than they had before. Some are even using their newfound growth and capacity to help others along the way. We think it’s incredibly inspiring and are confident you’ll feel the same. We hope and imagine that this theme will resonate with you too, as your incredible generosity has remained steadfast even in the face of the uncertainty we all have grappled with this year. We look forward to sharing with you these stories of inspiration starting next week, and through the month of December!