Lesson #1: The Power of a Simple Smile
Location: Kigali, Rwanda
Rwanda is most famously known for the horrific genocide that started in April 1994. In less than 100 days, over 800,000 people were slaughtered.
Amazingly, Rwanda has completely transformed in the past 25 years. Today it is universally recognized as the safest and cleanest country in Africa.
Even so, for a family that grew up in the comforts of the Western world, moving into an African suburb was not easy emotionally.
Walking down the street had never felt so lonely, as stern-looking neighbors would stop and stare as we walked past them.
The anxiety and stress were so intense our first day that Sam, our second oldest, broke into tears over dinner and said he never wanted to leave the house again.
Thankfully, my wife Marisa (our expert linguist in the family) had one of her often brilliant ideas.
The next day, when she needed to walk down the street to the small local market, she invited Sam to come along and play a game.
“Let’s see how many people we can get to say hello when you smile and say ‘Hello’ in the local language (“Muraho,” she suggested.
Although dubious and anxious, Sam agreed to give it a try. Not fifty yards from the house, an older woman was sweeping the gutters with a broom made from dried leaves.
She looked up when she saw Marisa and Sam approaching, with the same stern and curious gaze Sam had…