When we’re hurt we cry, when we’re happy our faces reflect our joy. We welcome the breeze that cools us on a hot day, and the warmth of a fire on a chilly night. We love our children, care for our friends and family, and cherish the time we have in the open arms of our partners.

Life is a series of choices: what we say, where we go, what and how we think. Everything we do reflects a choice we have made. If we choose to focus on our differences, then it’s “us versus them”: animosity, resentment, and bitterness will prevail, even war. If we focus on our commonality as human beings on earth, who share the experience of our humanity and take the same joys and sorrows in life, then we see each other as we see ourselves. Tolerance, empathy and understanding abide. We know ourselves as part of the plurality of our common human identity.

Every day in Rwanda, I ask myself why these people appear so happy when they have so little? Perhaps because they are grateful for what they do have, grateful each time their most basic needs are met: safety, food, shelter, companionship. Being with the Rwandans is a gracious and joyful experience, yet at times I feel ashamed. How thankful am I for what truly matters in life? How much am I missing when my gratitude comes more from the latest “toy” I’ve bought, and not from the smile of a loved one?