For the past two and a half years I have been buying my son Lego sets, age appropriate or not. Secretly, I bought them for myself, because I missed out on the experience when I was a kid. Finally, in the past week, my son fell in love with them and has spent hours playing during the last days of the summer vacation before he starts kindergarten.
Although he plays well most of the time, he is a little impatient and complaints if his Lego creations don’t cause intergalactic explosions. Then, I have to remind him to be thankful, telling him about the children all over the world who have nothing to play with, except what they can build with their own hands out of garbage. This is Esteban Quispe’s story; the seventeen-year-old genius from Bolivia who build a robot like Disney’s Wall-E out of waste from a dump.
When I saw his story rolling on Twitter last week, it marveled me. This young man–born and raised in poverty in Patacamaya, a small village in the south of La Paz–used to create bugs from wire and sell them to help his parents. Then, one day, somebody bought a crafted spider from him and challenged him to make it move on its own. Because he didn’t have the means to afford the materials, he looked for electrical parts at garbage dumps around the city, and made it happen.
Since December last year—when the story broke—Esteban has received job offers from all over the world, but, in an interview with CNN he said, “I don’t want to work yet, I want to study and learn more.” That’s is exactly what captivated me the most: his humility.
Somebody else in his position would have probably taken the first job, money, and fame and ended up spending himself back to poverty. But, this young Bolivian wants to grow his knowledge and train his skills so he can help his community. Besides going to NASA, he dreams of building an agricultural robot to help small farmers during the harsh harvesting season in his country.
After I read this story, I looked up a scientific club for my son. He attended a science summer camp during break and he even asked for a microscope. Recently, my husband and I discussed what extra-curricular activities we were selecting for our son, and I realized we were focusing only on sports. Even though they are important to strengthen his muscles, I want my son to exercise the most important organ: his brain.
Society puts a lot of value on athletes, and they deserve it. They sweat blood and tears to achieve excellence and follow discipline as their religion. With the Summer Olympic Games upon us, the best of the best will compete for supremacy at the highest stage. Nevertheless, once the gold, silver and bronze are awarded, and the winners and losers return home, unless they signed a good endorsement contract for clothing or sandwich brands, their greatness will be forgotten for four years or worse, forever.
I want my son to understand early on that being smart is as cool as being athletic. I want him to understand that running fast, jumping high, or tackling an opponent will take him only to the end of the court, while his intelligence and curiosity can take him beyond the stars.
So, I will continue to encourage my little boy to play sports, but I will also buy him more Lego sets and the microscope he asked for. I don’t expect him to build a robot like Esteban Quispe, but I want him to question and experiment with his surroundings and make his own creations. Who knows, he might discover something we can patent so my husband and I can afford a first class nursing home.
Thank you for reading and sharing.
This column was sponsored by La’Rae Hendrix, Rodan+Fields Independent Consultant. Redefining the future of skincare. (904) 770-5278