A friend of mine posted this photography project, called Toy Stories, on Facebook today. It’s by a guy named Gabriele Galimberti, an Italian photographer. It documents kids from all around the world with their most prized possessions, their toys. The photos are stunning, but also quite revealing. Plus, they’re ridiculously adorable.
It got me thinking what the 5-year-old Janelle from Ottawa, Canada would have been photographed with. Here’s my list, I think:
My pink blanket (made by my Nana when I was born)
Kitty (a stuffed lion that purred when you rocked it back and forth)
Reddy (my red bear Beanie Baby)
Bruno (a stuffed bear, perfect for hugging)
Blue Moon and Sapphire (the two best Hot Wheels cars)
Red and yellow mini car
That list makes me feel extremely sentimental, actually. Now that I’m living away from most of my stuff, I miss randomly coming across those items on a regular basis, and being reminded of… what, exactly? How much I’m loved? How blessed my childhood was? I’d like to think that those items are simply representations of something more significant in my early years, but I also feel like the objects themselves have some sort of value.
What do we really value? What do our kids value? Am I sad that the kids in Port-au-Prince don’t have many toys? Am I mad that the kid in China has too many toys? Should I be? Does it really affect a kid’s life, how many toys they have? These are all the questions that flew through my mind the longer I studied these photos. Would I have turned out different if I hadn’t been flooded with toys every Christmas? I’m afraid of valuing material things too much, but I don’t want to discount the thought and resources that went into providing me with all my stuff.
On the positive side, I think Galimberti did well at presenting kids in developing nations in varied and accurate ways. There was even a white kid named Ryan from Johannesburg! It shouldn’t be that exciting, but a white African being depicted is pretty rare.
In my experience, kids can play with almost anything. Give them a stick, an open space, and a ball-type thing, and they’re good to go. And that’s beautiful. It almost levels the playing field for humanity when you witness a child having as much fun on a beach in Zanzibar as in a theme park in Montreal.
I think we need to evaluate what it is we want our kids to value. This will vary from culture to culture, but to all the ‘privileged’ of the world: you can teach your kids to value shiny, plastic things, or you can teach them to value character and goodness. Be careful how full you fill their stockings, lest they drown in the weight of materialism. If you were living in a village in Kenya, would you be able to show your child that you love him?