39,974,880 feet, 7,571 miles, 24 hours of travel, and a seven-hour time zone change later, a little girl no older than eight approached me for less than five minutes from her small village outside Kumasi and gave me a fresh perspective on the small things that sometimes matter the most.
We had just finished watching the end of a demonstration on how the people of the village made beads out of glass bottles. Our group anxiously gathered around the clay oven that inhabited several clay molds full of freshly baked beads. As soon as the dozens of village children saw us gathered round, they swarmed to us to see the demonstration; one that they have probably seen many times before. Excited as ever, boys and girls bounced all around and clung to our arms and legs. I, on the other hand, grew mildly restless and annoyed when the rain began to pour.
As I frustratingly hurried back to the ‘Obruni’ bus wearing my overpriced Northface jacket to shield the rain, a little girl snuck up on me from behind and gently intertwined her tiny fingers around mine. I looked down into her big brown eyes and she stared right back. In that moment I completely forgot it was raining and I gave her a smile. I suddenly felt happy.
She hurried along side me as I followed the herd back to the Obruni bus. While she embraced the rain as it pitter-pattered her smooth African skin and wet her tattered clothes, I clumsily stumbled down the road solely focusing on avoiding mud holes and the infamous Ghana gutter. I stretched my hood far over my face to protect the rain from hitting my glasses and skin. My annoyance crept back in and my main concern was to make it back to the bus as dry as possible; we had another 5 hours of driving back to Accra. From her point of view, I probably looked pretty silly and in hindsight I couldn’t agree more.
The little girl and I didn’t speak a single word on the way back but when I came to the bus entrance I told her that I had to go, and I wished her a good day. She stared up at me and squeezed my hand a little harder. I kneeled down to her level and gave her one last smile and a squeeze back. She playfully trunk twisted her body as if to show me she wasn’t ready for me to leave and at that exact moment I didn’t want to either.
Our group started filing on the bus and as I stood up from my kneel while she kept her little fingers intertwined. I tenderly explained to her we had to leave she departed me by pushing the top of my hand to her lips only to give it the most gentle, soft, and sincere kiss. I genuinely blushed and forgot about the rain and leaving for a second time.
My bus journey back to Accra consisted of lots of iPod music and aimless staring outside the window as we passed countless jungles of green, fruit stands, and tro tros. All the while I couldn’t get the girl’s small gesture of kindness out of my head. I wondered if I was the first person she had kissed like that or if she did it to all the Obrunis who visited their village. What was her name?
Her small gesture reemphasized one of my favorite quotes: “Sometimes,” said Pooh, “it’s the small things that take up the most room in your heart.”