19 November 2014

Its New To Me

A little background for this post. My father works for a number of local organizations as an English teacher. He's retired & now teaches ESL (English as Second Language). During the day, he teaches refugees from all over the world. In the evening he teaches for ESL for a people already living in the US & working on their English. The ironic part of his "jobs" is that he does not believe he is working. He has the highest success rate- in both programs- ever achieved by anyone. Yes, I'm a proud daughter, but the man is a treasure. He is giving purpose to people's lives. He is providing hope to people who have been decimated by war, government, and pure, simple evil. Everyone loves him (I say with complete non-bias).

Last week my dad asked me to help one of his former students with a nursing class I have already completed. I was happy to help, but not so happy to be inconvenienced. I tried to organize a time & place we could meet. The day of the tutoring session, my dad called me saying, he was on the way to our home with the student, D'Sange. I rolled my eyes. Students in teachers' houses is not OK in my book. I'll go along with it, I thought. I set aside my own studies, and gathered some supplies.

Forget "First World Problems." The DRC makes our worst nightmares look like DisneyWorld.

When D'Sange arrived at our home, I came down to greet her & fell in love with this vibrant, soulful young woman. Her English accent was thick, and I was definitely worried about her comprehension. As we began to study, I asked where she was from. She answered her home was the Democratic Republic of Congo. My heart stopped for a second. The DRC? One of the deadliest places on earth where fighting is a way of life, rape, pillaging & sex trade are the "norm"? And yet, across the table from me is this buzzing bundle of energy trying to understand a simple nursing text.

As we went through the text & I explained some solid study methods, D'Sange would catch on to what was being taught, and exclaim an excited, "aha!" Yet I still questioned her comprehension. I asked her, "D'Sange, what languages do you speak?" She answered, rattling off a list as long as my arm, including French! Yes- French. I could work with that!

I immediately asked where in the house I could find a French/English dictionary. Within 2 minutes, one was produced. I looked at it, somewhat dismayed. It was probably from the '70s. The bottom of the pages was tinged with an old mold, long since dried & flaked off, the pages aged and crinkled. The book was tiny, and not desirable by any definition. I checked a couple of words, looked at D'Sange and said, "Vouz devez trouver votre confiance. Ayez confiance en VOUS!" Suck as my French may, D'Sange suddenly sat up in her chair and answered excitedly, "Confiance en moi!"

It was an "a-ha" moment (not to be confused with the '80s rock group Aha). I told D'Sange to please keep the dictionary. I was a little embarrassed to give a gift so raggedy and lowly. I apologized to D'Sange, "I am sorry this dictionary is so old." Her simple reply has stuck with me and nestled in my heart, growing each day: "But this dictionary is new to me." Her answer triggered my own "a-ha" moment.

I am humbled and grateful and shamed. How much do we have in our lives? How much do we need. I'm not advocating against wanting nice things, or caring for the things you have. But that night changed my view on SO much. Do you know what D'Sange told me about our notebooks? We were both taking notes in a cheap, spiral-bound notebook. You know- the kind you can buy at your local Big Store for $0.50 (or less). D'Sange told me in her country, these notebooks are "richie" note books, which probably belong to a teacher, never a mere student.

I have an abundant life- spiritually, mentally, emotionally. I have a warm bed. I have pens and notebooks and even computers (plural!). I have wi-fi and a printer for Pete's sake. The things I cry about are the things some people never even dream of having in an entire life.

So from now on, when I hold an object in my home, or pick up my 10 year old MacBook & complain its SOoooooo out-of-date, I think of D'Sange saying, "Its new to me." Because honestly, how much in this vast universe is truly new to each of us. I'd gamble to say much is truly "new" to us. Its a matter of perspective. One I'm working on changing.