Melissa Block

A Young Girl's Inspiring Determination

Today I witnessed a small moment that transported me 7,600 miles back home.

A young Chinese girl in a housing camp practices writing. Photo: Melissa Block, NPR.

Writing practice after school. Melissa Block/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Melissa Block/NPR

I was in one of Sichuan's countless transitional housing camps - the dreary, prefab barracks set up everywhere for those whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake. I was talking with a woman in the small room she shares with her husband and two daughters. She had a pot of rice cooking and the room was tidy, even though every inch of usable space was filled.

Then, in walked her five-year-old daughter, Liu Yang, with bright orange pom-poms in her hair, home from school. Right away, without a word, she opened up her pencil case, sat down on the couch, spread out a small notebook on a blue plastic stool, and solemnly started practicing writing her Chinese characters. I've seen that exact same look of serious intensity on my 6-year-old daughter Chloe's face when she sits down, pencil clasped tightly in hand, to do her homework. It's the look of a child determined to do her best. And in the case of the girl I met today, determined to do her best even under the worst circumstances.

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