Moving through the Merendon Mountains, a little boy in jeans and a blue and gold striped shirt latched onto senior Hannah Kenny’s hand. His feet were bare, yet he cradled her hand and rubbed it between his delicate palms as though she were the one that needed the warmth. As they wandered through the Honduran village, he kept holding on. Sometimes he’d peer up at her with his doe brown eyes, obscured by a haze of eyelashes and smile through rotting yellow baby teeth. His squeaky giggles made her smile.
It was March, 2015 and Kenny was on a mission trip. A dirt road wound down the middle of the village dotted with shacks made of tin scraps, mud and dirt. Their main crop is coffee beans, which grow best in high altitudes. There were coffee plants were everywhere, even on the steepest parts of the mountain. Children darted through the hills playing and sorting beans.
“We were installing water filters and little kids would run and just hold my hand and just like the comfort in knowing that it doesn’t matter that I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me, we just could support each other and we knew that we were all there genuinely to help and that was really cool,” Kenny said.
The smiles of the people in Honduras lodged in Kenny’s mind. She considers it as she sits on a black bench in leggings and a scarf. She has so much more than them and so much more than the child with no shoes that wanted to hold her hand. Yet they were unhesitant to flash their teeth- rotten or not.
“Even though so many people were going through so much and everyone is if you think about it, like not just in a developing country, like everywhere you go,” Kenny said. “Especially here, you wouldn’t think that people have things going on in their lives, but they do and some things are really, really hard but the ability to just like put on a smile and laugh and know that you’re not alone in what you’re going through, that really stuck with me and it helps me to be more patient with other people and to have more empathy when I’m trying to help other people going through what they’re going through.”
Kenny notes the similarities between her and the people of the village.
“I have things going on in my life and I understand that people have circumstances that they’re going through and no matter what’s going on, one of my strengths is being able to find the positive things,” Kenny said. “Even in mentally or emotionally draining situations, I’m able to have a good perspective and see things from a positive light, which has really helped me through a lot of life.”
Her trip inspired her to go into social work or nonprofit management. She’s learned to listen and to see situations from other people’s perspectives. Kenny’s eyes have opened wide enough to glimpse the world thanks to the little boy with no shoes, rotten teeth and a big heart.
“No matter what you’re going through, you’re not alone,” Kenny said. “And it’s not your situation or circumstances that make you unique, it’s how you choose to handle them and how you choose to help other people.”