Dirty, deceiving, corrupt and dishonest. A thief. As a three-year-old, these words were foreign to me, as I had never experienced evil. In a split second, that completely changed, leaving me with a frightening memory of early childhood.
I always ran errands with my dad, and I usually went into stores with him. On this one "quick stop" in downtown Cairo, I waited in the back seat of our old, rusty car. Suddenly, an unshaven man opened the car door leaned in closer, almost brushing against my pink Barbie t-shirt. "Hello little girl, your dad said I can have this." He reached to my feet where my dad kept a bag filled with his wallet and other personal items. As the man flashed me a crooked smile, I noticed his dirty teeth. He told me what a good little girl I was. Meanwhile, I didn't move an inch or say a word.
"Hey beautiful," Dad said, opening the car door minutes later, " I bought your favorite candy." I held the tiny box of Hot Tamales in my lap, completely motionless. Dad immediately knew something was wrong, as I normally squealed with joy whenever I received candy. When he turned to look at me in the back seat, he noticed his bag was missing. I told him about the strange man who claimed ownership of the bag while my Dad was in the store.
Looking back, my blindness in the situation demonstrates the pure innocence of my childhood. In my safe, secure world, I couldn't imagine the cruel nature of a criminal. The ramifications of the robbery forced me to acknowledge the prevalence of evil. Sadly, my father's stolen bag contained my family's passports and other documents for our move to the United States that week. Replacing them was stressful, time-consuming and costly.
Yet the robbery ultimately became a valuable learning experience. While other children quickly embraced strangers as friends, I knew that trust was not universal. I understood the need to be prepared for a similar situation in the future, if I encountered someone with an impure heart. Throughout my childhood, I sought protection through information. I questioned people and situations, as my awareness gave me a sense of security. In my heart, I knew that knowledge was my key to remaining safe.
Almost fifteen years later, I still remember the day when I lost my childhood innocence. Yet I also acknowledge the robbery as a catalyst for my maturity and growth. When he stole our money and passports, the thief forced me to face life's harsh realities. I realized that there are two ways to live: honestly or deceitfully. I choose honesty. Whatever I achieve through my hard work brings me a rightful sense of pride. A thief will never understand or enjoy this pride. My naivetÃÂ© has been replaced by the knowledge that every day is another chance to enjoy life, learn new things and become a better person. Through my curiosity and ambition, I have become a strong woman who does not easily discourage. Even in the toughest situations, I take care of myself and those around me.
Honest, clean, loyal and benevolent. A success. As I approach college, I bring my hard-earned knowledge from my first eighteen years of life. In every choice I make, I try to embody the essence of those positive values.