For some reason I found myself reading an older article in National Geographic from April 2002 about the Afghan girl with the green eyes. Remember the cover photo from the mid-1980s? The article I was reading was about how they found her again (at that time, it was 17 years later). It was called “A Life Revealed,” and the woman with the green eyes finally had a name: Sharbat Gula.
I won’t try to retell the story as the magazine’s writing is impeccable, but if you have a moment, look it up.
It seems unfathomable to have any will to live after having both parents killed during the Soviet invasion. It seems unfathomable that they would walk to another country over the course of a week, all the while trekking through snow and begging for blankets to stay warm. It seems unfathomable to picture a brother, four sisters and a grandmother hiding in caves as the planes flew over.
In the article it talked about how Sharbat left the refugee camp and went to her home village during a lull in the fighting back in the 1990s. The next sentence I read made my heart ache; it was suddenly heavy with selfishness. The article read, “To live in this earthen-colored village at the end of a thread of path means to scratch out an existence, nothing more.”
“Scratch out an existence.” Can you imagine? I can’t.
It continued, saying that corn, wheat and rice were planted there, along with some walnut trees. Sometimes there’s a stream (when there isn’t a drought), but no school, clinic, roads or running water.
It seems unfathomable to imagine living her life, to know nothing about other countries’ existence, and to know very little about happiness.
As the story ends, it ponders how she could have survived in the face of bitterness and with a spirit that had begun to atrophy.
Her answer came immediately and with certainty. “It was the will of God.”
After reading Sharbat’s follow-up story a decade after it was written, much seems unfathomable about her life. But it also seems unfathomable that any one of us could ever really, truly have a bad day.
Tonight I am thankful. Period.