There are days here when I feel like nothing we are doing matters much. Lots of doubts creep in and I chew on them a while. That maybe we are not really helping people here. Maybe we really do not know how or if what we are doing is making any difference.
Today was not one of those days.
After a couple days of the kids showing up late, me being frustrated because more and more kids are coming to our little shule outside, and me unable to keep up and help everyone I thought maybe this was a mistake, too much of a hassle, a bust. Maybe they are not really learning anything. God always knows when I am relying on my own strength, my own definition of success and He is always good to reveal to me what I do not see….mostly because I am not looking hard enough.
A neighbor and Mama of 3 of the kids that attend shule here came over to see their books and their work. I just brought some cheap exercise books and a box of pencils in town and every session we have been practicing writing in them, doing easy art projects, and gluing xerox copies of exercises that help us learn English words. Sort of like makeshift workbooks and I taped each child’s picture on the front of each book (much to their absolute delight). I showed their Mama her kid’s books and she looked through each page carefully examining the scribbles, letters, words, pencil eraser marks, construction paper glued in place with care, and stickers awarded for a job well done. I explained some of what we were learning and she was impressed that her kids did it “mwenyewe” (themselves). I assured her that they are really trying hard and she told me how much they love singing, how much they laugh because I make a fool of myself every class, and how they are super excited to get homework (I started making xerox copies of some workbooks Anni has and after just trying it out every single child returned it completed!). She also told me that a couple years back her oldest son attended a local government school and there were 100 kids in his class. She explained that most days he would write his name and the date on the top of the paper and just sit and wait for the teacher. Many days she would never make it to him. Their Mama said that he told her yesterday even if they get the money for him to return to school he would rather come to our little shule because he gets to sing, to write, to laugh, and to learn. I was both sad (that he really thought he was learning more 2-3 hours a week than at the local school) and happy (that at least one of the kids is really learning and loving coming). She thanked me again for teaching them and told me not to get tired of doing a good job (a new Kiswahili word for me that required my dictionary) and later sent over some fried fish her husband caught that morning. I know that in the grand scheme of life here this one little thing is small. We cannot solve a lot of the issues and struggles that plague our friends and neighbors here nor do I feel that is our job but I can continue to bring my mat, our books, and a smile everyday we have shule. I can choose to believe and invest and love and have joy.
Today was a good day.