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Candide ... a story of loss, challenges, genocide, and optimism.

Candide, ou l'Optimisme (written in 1759) is a French satire by the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire, English translations of which have been titled Candide: Or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: Or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: Or, Optimism.

Note the important word there... Optimism.

That pretty much sums up the spirit of Candide Uwizeyimana, a charming young lady I've had the privilege of corresponding with, thanks to Facebook.

It started when I was just poking around on the internet and a headline caught my eye...

Teen survivor of genocide awaits US graduation

Candide's story goes like this...

Two years ago, Candide Uwizeyimana could not speak a word of English. A survivor of the Rwandan genocide, she lost her family and later was separated from those who rescued her from an orphanage, fed and housed her and paid for her education.

Survival was the focus of her first 16 years. But drive, determination and some luck have given Candide the opportunity to live a completely different life in the suburbs north of Seattle, where she saw snow for the first time and is about to graduate from high school.

Can she afford a new dress to wear under her gown? Will she go on to a university next or study at a community college and continue working and saving money from her job at the Safeway grocery store?

These are today's concerns but they are not her story.

Rwanda was filled with fear and panic in 1993, months before the country would explode in ethnic violence that would claim as many as 1 million lives. Villages in the mountainous region of Gikongoro in southwest Rwanda were not immune from the atrocities.

Life was becoming unbearable for Joseph Rurangwa and Beatrice Nilabakunzi and their five daughters, Candide and her four sisters, Leaticia, Adeline, Angelique and Theodette.

When the family dog started bringing home human body parts, the couple decided it was time to leave the village where Candide had always lived. (STORY CONTINUED
- read and come back...)

So I "Googled" Candide and found her Facebook page. I thought... what a charming young lady. I got a little insight into her life, her friends, and I sent her a little note.

I keep checking her Facebook page to see what she is up to, and the thing I notice is how OPTIMISTIC she is... about... well LIFE.

I mentioned in a recent message how she had such a nice group of friends and how we really get to "pick" our family as we go through life. Remember, Candide has no idea where her family is.. or if they are still alive. But she does have at least two "families" that have helped her in her journey of life so far.

She wrote this back... (keep in mind that Candide has only been writing and speaking English for a few years now)...

"Thank very much Sue i apreciate all your support. Yes i had a great fourth and for the first time i was able to see the fire works. It was fun, i believe what you said, because we design the world sometimes by the way we choose to see it. I think that during my journey discoveries were made for which i ask myself a question everyday... am i ready to put this out or to share it with the world? One day this will happen with the encouraging people like yourself and others around me. thanks again."

What strike me about Candide's words here are several things...

Despite almost dying on multiple occasions. Despite living in fear and hunger for years... in spite of losing her family.. in fact.. losing her Father and one of her sisters... TWO times... Candide still feels that SHE is in control of her own destiny. She chooses not to let adversity and circumstances effect how she sees the world.

The other thing that strikes me is this... not only is this young lady NOT been "beaten" by life. Not only has she not been destroyed by witnessing the killing and the horror that she grew up surrounded by, BUT, quite the opposite.

She feels she has something to contribute, to her friends, to her "new family" ... to US... and to LIFE.

That she would want to share with this world at all is a miracle.

We all have our bad days... but the next time we are whining about a computer crash, or a long line at Starbucks, I think we should remember Candide... as she was then... a child in a country of murder and death... and as she is now... a young lady reaching adulthood and facing the world with optimism and hope for the future.

We have a lot we can learn from Candide... our "Diva of Optimism"

"Life is not about finding yourself, but about creating yourself."

...from Candide Uwizeyimana's FaceBook page

.... Sue Copening, 2009

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