I don’t quite know how to process what is happening in my new home without at least trying to put it into words. So I will try to explain, but it might sound more like rambling than complete thought. For some reason my mind is operating in fragments.
I’m learning about love. How it feels to have little eyes beg for your attention. Every day, I teach for hours in front of a large class of students who are learning their second or third language. Some see violence at home every day. Some are the recipients of that violence. Sexual abuse. Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Abandonment. Poverty. Exhaustion.
And the easiest thing in the world would be to give each student a grace card. You’re falling asleep in class? You probably slept on a dirt floor last night. I wouldn’t sleep well, either. Take a little nap.
You’re hitting your classmates? Well you’ve probably seen plenty of fights between your parents, I understand that your first reaction is physical.
But something that I’m learning, something that the team at Freedom has taught me, is that loving them well requires discipline. It means sending kids to stand in the corner (their version of time out) or to the office. It means attempting to break a cycle that seems unbreakable. It means assigning homework even though most of the kids won’t have parents enforcing any form of responsibility at home.
And there’s push back. The kids scream and cry and pout and curse at the teachers and staff. They are disrespectful most of the time. It is completely different from being in an American classroom. It is also very different from being in a typical Dominican classroom where the kids are allowed to run around wild, not learn anything, and most likely will never complete high school. Most of our kids have parents who cannot write their names.
(Side note: how often do we push back when we’re in the middle of a difficult season? Act like these kids. How often do we want to scream at God, demand more, because the snare of entitlement is a noose around our privileged necks?)
But our kids sign documents for their parents. They have learned how to use toilets. They do their homework even without parents making them. They are learning English. They can sing the ABCs.
Today I wanted to cry because my entire class was misbehaving. I almost had a break down right in the middle of the classroom, my voice hoarse from yelling their names. Almost every student had their names on the board. I was weary. I am weary, a lot of the times. But serving really isn’t about enjoying every moment. It just means showing up.
And today, in the same class, I had one student who always gets in trouble make it the entire day without being sent to the corner. And he drew me a picture. And he got a sticker and piece of candy for making it through. He was so proud, that little chubby face beaming with pride.
All emotions mixed into one. A lesson in humanity that I never expected. It will never be easy, but we just have to keep showing up. Life will never be the perfect picture that we thought it would be, but there’s still beauty etched in hardship.
My refrain for the days that are long and hot and make me feel like crying?
Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.