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Updated: Nov 15, 2020

When I look through many of my travel photos and I’m taken back to being there. Only a few of these photos can be translated into paintings. The thing that struck me with this photo was the little girl’s expression. It was cold up in the mountains of Sapa, Vietnam once the sun had set. There’s a huge tourist population in Sapa: lots of hotels, restaurants, massage parlors, and hiking tours.

With tourists come many street vendors. These little girls were dressed for sympathy to make their sale. A younger sibling strapped on their backs as they chased after us holding out hands full of colorful trinkets and key-chains. They spoke just enough of the essential English to sell. “You want to buy? How many?”

There were two girls in particular. I watched them from afar as they ran up to tourists with a burst of energy and hope. Hope sparked in their eyes with each potential sale, and they held up their hands to show off their wares. As they were waved away, the hope disappeared and tiredness replaced it. I watched their faces look frustrated and tired as they stopped and spoke to each other; hoisting their younger siblings up higher on their backs to relieve certain back aches. As I approached the girl, the hope came back to her face with a burst of energy as she scurried towards me. She walked with me for a few steps repeating her sales pitch with bird-like chattering and energy, until she realized I wasn’t going to buy.

I had my DSLR, but the settings and night time restricted lighting caused my photo to be blurry. Plus I was walking while taking photos, which didn’t help. I feel the blurry photo only adds to the passing moment this girl had to attract me. It was a moment in time. I captured her face while she still thought there was possibility; while she still had hope. I moved on. She moved on carrying her heavy younger sister.

We were told not to buy from children. It encourages them to skip school if we buy their wares. That didn’t mean it was easy to walk by them. I wanted to take them home, and feed them up, and let them play. I wonder how much playtime they get.

As I painted this little girl, I was reminded of how differently her life is to my children’s. My children were not born in that environment and they will (probably) never have to sell things at such a young age because their family needs money. This little girl did not choose where she was born. I thought of how much more have my children been born into than she has? Neither of their own choosing.

It reminded me that we do not get to choose where we are born, nor the family we are born into. It reminded me of something Pastor Rick Warren said about a hand of cards: four of the cards we are given, but the fifth card is choice. We do get to choose what we will do with the cards we were given. We can squander. We can multiply. We can do nothing with what we have been given. We can do for ourselves. We can do for others. We can do for our own glory. We can do for God’s glory. We can choose.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

Matthew 35:21

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