KIDS ARE KIDS, 
NO MATTER WHAT

   I was in the heart of the Carmel Valley a couple of weeks ago, in an area called The Preserve. It is a private community of 300 homesites on a measly 22,000 acres.
   I was ready to move into the first building I saw. Beautiful stonework, spectacular architecture, lovely landscaping. And that was the gatehouse.
   My three friends and I were going to play a round of golf at one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world. We'd been invited by a member, who (by inviting us) obviously didn't relish the exclusivity of the place.
   It took 25 minutes to drive from the gatehouse to the golf course on the impeccably maintained private road. We passed a few elegant mansions tucked into the trees, waved to the horses at the equestrian center and polo field and finally climbed the hill to the golf course, where our names were already inscribed in brass on our guest lockers.
   The week before I had been helping out for a few days at an orphanage in Tijuana, surrounded by a shanty town and indescribable poverty. It was hard not to make comparisons.
   We moseyed over to the driving range to hit some balls before teeing off. No one was there (no one was anywhere) except for a group of about 12 five to eight year olds who were taking golf lessons from a young instructor. Some were girls, some were boys, and all of them looked as though they were right out of a J.Crew or Abercrombie and Fitch catalog.
   "Look," said one of my friends as we watched the kids with their instructor. "There's the Lucky Sperm Club."
   They certainly did seem lucky, at first glance. A golf lesson, then maybe a swim, followed by perhaps a horseback ride in the afternoon. How lucky can you get?
   Compared to the kids at the Tijuana orphanage, these kids at The Preserve had everything money can buy, along with at least one, and maybe two, parents.
   The orphanage kids had very, very little other than the clothes on their back. They shared one bicycle among the 40 of them, and their recreation mostly consisted of a nerf football, a whiffle ball and a whiffle bat.
   No one would ever call the orphanage kids The Lucky Sperm Club. But if smiles and laughter is a measurement, the orphanage kids take second to none.
    They exuded joy. The simplest of games created gales of laughter and hugs and giggles and satisfied smiles. A little kitten appeared out of nowhere and the girls followed it for hours, taking turns cradling it in their arms. The boys, full of energy, ran from one game to another, laughing all the way.
   Meanwhile, back at The Preserve, The Lucky Sperm Club was learning how to hit a five-iron. They would swing mightily, miss mightily, and move to the back of the line. Pretty soon it was time for them to have a "playing lesson," on one of the most exclusive courses in the country.
   I last saw them near the first green, where they moved to the side as we hit our approach shots. They each had their little golf bags, which were almost bigger than them, and they trudged lazily out of the way as we played through.
   The scene was spectacular. Gorgeous, tree-studded rolling hills with views every which way, and the glistening green of a perfectly maintained golf course. The rich kids, looking very bored, waved shyly and politely as we passed.
   The kids at the Tijuana orphanage had a playing field, too. It was an asphalt basketball court/soccer field, which was right next to a little creek which was about fifteen feet below the court level.
   Unfortunately, the creek smelled like raw sewage and there was no barrier whatsoever at the edge of the court. It gave new meaning to the basketball term "fadeaway" shot. If you shot a fadeaway from the right corner, you would disappear off the ledge.
   The kids didn't care. They loved their "field," they loved the game. They just smiled and laughed, and when the ball went over the edge, they just climbed down and retrieved it out of the raw sewage and kept playing.
   They'll probably never learn to hit a five-iron. Their challenges are many, with more most certainly to come. But for now, they sure know how to laugh, and they sure know how to play.
 

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