March 29, 2011

Reminders in Dreams...

I woke up this morning, and I swear, I could smell it. That acrid, smokey smell that blows into our windows every morning when we're in Malawi. The locals burn their trash at daybreak, and that smell is more efficacious than an alarm clock. I felt the wisp of the mosquito net across my face and the humidity that is ever-present. I promise you, I was not on my comfy, pillow-topped mattress; instead, my hip was firmly planted on the board of my bed, since the mattress is so thin and there's a hole right where a person's hip should be. I couldn't have been happier.

Then, my alarm went off, and I realized I was still in the States. Don't get me wrong, I am GRATEFUL for my life here. I am blessed beyond measure. I have a job I love, an apartment that, while it's not much, is my home; I have friends and family who remind me daily of why I was put on this Earth, and I lack for nothing.

It's just...the countdown has begun. 69 days until I leave with an amazing team of high school students, and we travel almost 48 hours to the other side of this globe. To a place where everything is different, and yet...the important things are still the same. Smiles mean the same thing; heck, I think they mean more. They're definitely easier to share. Hugs are tighter. Language is only words; smiles, laughter, and hand-gestures communicate just as effectively. Children laugh. Songs are sung. And, gratitude abounds - for me, it's just the thankfulness to be able to go. To see and experience what so many here in the US have never seen, and never will because we're so wrapped up in our struggle to fulfill the "American Dream." I'm grateful to help feed the hungry, to love the "unlovable", and to let some orphans - kids who have been shunned by society because their parents died of AIDS - know that they have value. That they are not a mistake, and that they have a purpose in this life.

I've been looking at my students a little bit differently today. I see them not as little junior high kids, but as future world changers. Students I will someday, maybe, travel around the world with, sit in the dirt & hold little kids with, cook food at the center with, and hopefully, help instill into them a desire to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick.

I can teach my students what the definition of "salient" is, how to effectively defend a thesis, and how to diagram a compound sentence with direct objects and indirect objects and compound verbs, not to mention nouns of direct address. But, if that's all I do, I have not, truly not, been a teacher. Because, being able to score well on a test means nothing if one cannot look with compassion on others.

That is my true calling. Teaching is just the vehicle I use.

69 days...


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