Monday, August 23, 2010

Why I'm Here

I read a pile of student drafts this afternoon, and also a class set of notebooks. The drafts were on self-selected topics, and one of the prompts in the notebooks asked the students to introduce themselves to me. Although I hadn't specifically asked anyone to write about the earthquake, many of the students did.

I sat and cried while I read.

And it suddenly occurred to me: This is why I am here. There are plenty of people who could teach my kids to write. And sure, I can do it too; I can fix their spelling and nudge their verb tenses and help them express themselves even better. But nobody can cry with them the way I can. (I am, by the way, a world-class crier.) Nobody can care about them the way I do, at least not exactly the way I do. Nobody else will read their writing the way I will, with exactly my eyes.

When I cry with them, it's not out of pity, because I saw something on TV or read about the Haitian children, but out of empathy. I know. I love Haiti too. I've lived here longer than you have; I came here before you were born. I was here that day in January, and I felt the earth shake. I'm so sorry for what you lost, and you're right to mourn those people and those places and that life. I love you. And God loves you.

We don't just sit around and cry. I still make them be quiet and stop chewing gum and turn in their homework on time. Life goes on and there are expectations. But they know that I care about them, and that I'm there if they want to talk, and that I'll read draft after draft of whatever they want to write.

All those months ago, when I was in the States, fretting about my complete uselessness, people said to me, There will be work to be done that only you can do. And now, here it is. I can teach and love these kids, here and now. I feel as though I'm exactly where I belong, doing exactly what I am supposed to do. And even if "what I am supposed to do" involves sadness and grief, it's sadness and grief I am uniquely qualified to suffer. And it's a privilege to do it.

5 comments:

Chrivi... said...

beautiful.

Jessica said...

awesome.

Diane said...

Ruth, this is beautiful. I am convinced there is no greater blessing than to live the life we are called to live. God bless you as you love His children.

Anonymous said...

This is terrific, Ruth. Mother

Andy Bowen said...

"When you know, even for a moment, that it's your time,
Then you can walk with the power of a thousand generations."
-Bruce Cockburn