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One of my favourite parts of my trip to Vietnam in 2009 was visiting the hill tribes near the northern border to China. It was a beautiful area with beautiful people. My husband and I, armed with our Canon 5D’s, took hundreds of photos, and a lot of them were of the children from the villages. They were used to tourists coming through, and when they saw us with cameras, they ran over to us like this-
And posed for photos like this-
But not all of them did. There were kids who for whatever reason couldn’t join in the fun. Some of them were working. Some of them were looking after younger siblings. There were also the shy ones.
I saw it happen a couple of times. All the kids would run over for a photo, but one hesitates-
I watched the little girl in the blue top stop and think while all the other kids raced over right away. There was some internal struggle there, but then she came to join the others.
But she was too slow. Her hesitation meant she missed the group photo. I watched as my husband showed the kids the photo he took (their favourite part of the process!), and the little girl in the blue top, man, she broke my heart.
She hesitated, she made excuses, she was too shy to join the group, and she missed out. I know, because I do all the same things, all the time. I was doing the same thing right then. I could have gone to her, taken her photo, included her. But I’m a shy one as well. It’s stupid how crippling shyness can be, that hesitation to make contact with other people, the inability to include yourself in a group. The way we just stand at the side and watch, wanting to be part of the fun but too busy making excuses not to- The photo’s already taken, I’m too late, they probably don’t want me to talk to them, I wouldn’t know what to say…
While walking from this village to the next I thought about it more. I felt bad for not making an effort.
So when I saw it happening again, a little girl in purple, watching from the sidelines…
What did I do? I could say I stepped up and included her, but I’d be lying. I totally copped out. I told my husband to take her photo, while I stood at the side and watched.
Isn’t she a beauty? She wasn’t sure what was happening. She stayed suspicious of us, who had gone to her to include her when she had probably come to accept that she simply wouldn’t be included. She kept this little frown on her face until we showed her the photo on the camera screen and she finally cracked a smile. Then the other girls wanted to see her photo too, and laughed and talked to her about it. And when we left, she kept smiling, laughing and talking to the other girls.
You probably see it a lot yourself, in schools, parties, or workplaces. The person who stands back, hesitates, stays on the side. It doesn’t mean they don’t want to join in. It’s the first step, joining in, being included, which can be so paralysing. But if someone can just make the effort to include the shy ones, it really does mean worlds to us.