My mentors have encouraged me to take risks and to “believe in myself.” I followed my heart, pressed on and pursued my dream of volunteering in Africa. I was in Ghana, Africa for 10 months: teaching English, practicing social work and writing stories. Ghana is laid back, relationship focused, and people there walk slowly. As I adapted to this new culture, the nursery kids were my pride and joy. They lit up every time I walked into their classroom and ran into my arms saying, “Auntie Monica! Look what I’ve found!” I have always believed that happiness comes from the little things – that these types of moments foster authentic happiness.
Monica Murphy is a writer whose community blog
for The Elkhart Truth, Live Out Loud
, shares stories and motivational columns. She’s from South Bend and graduated from Saint Mary’s College with a social work degree.
I marvel at how adults and children alike opened up honestly to me and told their stories. Despite their struggles and overwhelming adversity, the Ghanaians always maintained hope, optimism, courage and determination. Their unwavering faith inspired me.
As in many countries, a seemingly insurmountable divide exists between the wealthy and the poor. My kids, or “superstars,” as I liked to call them, suffered greatly. Most had no bed and lived on a diet of carbs and sugar. Yet while they suffered materially, they were unbelievably happy (most of the time…but like all kids, they had their share of fits). They served as my guiding light in a world that seemed too hard to take in at times. I fought hard to see the world through their eyes and gained an unforgettable perspective on life.
When my time in Ghana was up, I went to New York City to intern with my biggest inspiration – bestselling author, television writer, producer and television director Adriana Trigiani (Big Stone Gap). Living inside her world inspired my creativity as a writer and fueled my ambition. NYC is busy, career focused and extremely fast-paced. People there (in my opinion) are insatiably curious, and they do not have time to hold the door open for you. I barely saw people smiling. The beauty of the city is incomparable. Every time I land on NYC soil, I feel like I can accomplish anything. After all, I am fortunate to grow up in the “land of opportunity.”
I have always believed that it is about being grounded, having perspective and a positive attitude.
I have learned one important life lesson from these two experiences: No matter where you are in the world, people are starving for something — whether it is food, truth or acceptance. If we can all work together and understand that we are all the same — broken and imperfect – I dare to say our world would be thriving in compassion. Better yet, if we could all just soak up the joy that comes from these kids in Africa, I think we would revolutionize our attitudes and approaches to life. I know I have — you begin to realize that success is fickle and giving is immeasurable. It is freeing.
Monica Murphy is a writer whose community blog for The Elkhart Truth, Live Out Loud, shares stories and motivational columns. She’s from South Bend and graduated from Saint Mary’s College with a social work degree.