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Reece Spradley Wins Trip to Peru in 2018

Lexington, SC - Batesburg-Leesville junior, Reece Spradley was recently selected as a third place winner in the essay portion of the 7th annual Atlantic Institute’s Art & Essay contest and will travel to Peru in the spring of 2018 as part of her award. Atlantic Institute is a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote dialogue among people and towards issues that pertain to their lives. Atlantic Institute’s mainstay is to engage in educational activities about social and cultural matters. Founders of the Atlantic Institute are inspired by Fethullah Gulen’s philosophy of dialogue and peaceful and construction coexistence.

The Atlantic Institute’s art and essay contests challenge middle and high school student to submit either/or both art and essay compositions based on a yearly humanitarian theme. This year’s them was “Compassion in Action: Caring Matters.” The contest was first organized by the Istanbul Center in Atlanta, Georgia in 2006. In additional to Georgia, this contest has spread to the southeast region of Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina.

For Reece, entering this contest was a way for her to share her love of writing. She has enjoyed writing from a young age and is a gifted writer of both essays and poems, and in 2016, attended the Serious Young Writers’ Workshop at Columbia College. Reece also loves science, and in 2016, she was named as the CSRA’s Science Fair winner and received an all-expense paid trip to Phoenix, Arizona to participate in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. The knowledge gained from these experiences gave her the inspiration and ability to place third in the Atlantic Institute’s essay contest. Traveling to Peru has been one of her life-long dreams, and she is so excited to have the opportunity to study Peruvian culture and history next year. Reece is the daughter of Chris and Christy Spradley

Reece’s winning essay, “Circle” is below.

Circles

They say that life is a circle, that all things once started come to completion. We are in constant revolution, around the sun, around each other, around fate. Part of me believed that circles were consecutive, destinies nested within each other like ripples across the fabric of time. What follows changed my mind.

Slowly perishing in the Registan Desert, throat like sandpaper, stomach a hollow drum, I found myself alone at the mercy of a people portrayed as savages. More than 7,000 miles from home, I stared death in its fiery eye.

The circumstances that delivered me to that godforsaken corner of the world included an exchange program with an Afghan University that fell through due to being female, a vicious raid of an United States Embassy, and an unfortunate attempt to backpack to Kabul. The details of these events are not important in their minutia, but rather as whole and how they affected my life. I cannot say now, that I am thankful for being the subject of traditional prejudice, attacks by those different from myself, or being conned into human trafficking and sexual abuse, but I can say that the point on the circle these things delivered me to, I am forever grateful for.

She found me riddled with death. She with the brown eyes, composed heron’s stature, flowing black robes, and hood that made me believe that the reaper was in my presence. Somehow I felt no fear, and as she dragged me home through the dust I lost consciousness.

I awoke on the packed dirt floor of some strange hovel, dust floating in the air like snow frozen in time. The reaper stood over a bowl on the far side of this one room abode, turning as I struggled to sit up. “پاتې,” the woman’s voice called out in a foreign tongue, “پاتې.” Flying across the room she attempted to keep me still. I could not understand the barrage of Pashto leaving her mouth, but from her actions I could tell she wanted me to rest. “Alula,” she gestured towards her chest.

“Carter,” I croaked out, attempting to point at mine.

Three sunkissed children hung around their mother’s legs, growing increasingly agitated as the Sun dipped below the horizon. Alula’s little boy cried out, his stomach grumbling loudly. It became evident to me that this family was far more destitute than any I had encountered in the United States.

When the father, who I soon learned was called “Nadim” returned, he carried with him a small bag of grain. Alula quickly ground it in a worn metal bowl, mixing in water that fetched by her son earlier that day. When heated, a watery paste was created and divided evenly into six bowls. It was scarcely enough to feed my hosts, much less myself. While the taste was not pleasant, it was warm and given freely, sacrificially.

Sitting on the earthy floor of Alula and Nadim’s home, slowly being nursed back to health, I began to wonder why the media had never shown the Afghani people as these; kind beyond words, giving to others, loving to those who needed it, and living as best as they could manage, just as my family before me. As Alula carefully removed her daughters’ head coverings and braided their raven hair night after night, I could not help but feel a pang of homesickness remembering how my mother used to do the same for my sister and I. Despite being unable to understand the language of these people, I understood so much more about who they were. Perhaps if the world would look not at words, religion, or appearances, but instead at the heart, it would be a much more loving place.

After living with the family for a week, Alula covered my head with one of her hijabs. Her russet eyes were wet as the Sun rose over the sand, and my eyes too began to water knowing that this was goodbye. Greatly saddened that I could not offer this woman anything of my own in exchange for what she had done for me, I embraced her before leaving with Nadim. He escorted me to the airport in Kabul where I attempted to return his wife’s head covering, but he refused gesturing for me to keep it. With a nod and a simple wave farewell he watched me board my plane towards home.

A few years after returning to the United States, I married. He was patient with me, and we wept after discovering that my encounter with the abusive traffickers had left me infertile. Months of contemplation and prayer confirmed the tugging at my heart. The kindness of Alula and Nadim in those dark months would be honored by adopting a child out of Southern Afghanistan.

The screening and approval process took nearly a year to reach completion, and the plane ride to Afghanistan triggered a cascade of unexpected emotion. Upon reaching the orphanage and meeting the beautiful three month old girl we were adopting, we received a letter from the girl’s parents which when translated, read as follows:

To the new parents of our precious daughter,

Please care for our child as we would have. War has crippled our country and we are unable to support a fourth child. Our hearts break not knowing her future, but we pray that you will provide one more stable than we would be able. You are in our prayers, and we hope that you will be blessed, but above all that you will love.

Nadim and Alula Rashid

As I write this, four year old Lula is at my feet, constant inspiration to share the newfound value of life that arose out of agony. Though I am different in many ways from the kind foreigners who saved my life, the moment that our destinies crossed has forever altered my view of the world, sending ripples across my heart, a living testimony to the difference a little compassion can make.

B-L High junior, Reece Spradley, has been awarded a trip to Peru in April, 2018 after winning third place in the 7th annual Atlantic Institute’s Art & Essay contest. Pictured with Reece is Batesburg-Leesville High principal, Pat Padgett.

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