Sometimes it is the very simple things in life that lead to our greatest realizations or inspirations. Since I came to teach in El Chal half a year ago I have enjoyed it a lot. However, I have often wondered what real difference, what lasting impact I am making in the lives of my students. Is it worth the struggle of learning a new job while also learning a language in which I am far from fluent?
Fathers day is now several weeks behind us but I remain inspired and encouraged by the simple events that brought me my biggest ‘aha’ moment in awhile. I will share some of these events so you can get a picture of what I am talking about.
A few days before Father’s Day we had all the students decorate an envelope in which we would enclose the official invitation to our school’s Father’s Day event. Nothing strange about that. What was strange was when the questions began to pour in from my students.
“Teacher? My father died. Whose name should I put down?”
“Teacher? My father went to the states to work. Who am I supposed to invite?”
“Teacher? My father left when I was born. Whose name am I supposed to put on the envelope?”
And perhaps the most heartbreaking of all.
“Teacher? My father won’t come. Should I still put his name down?
My immediate advice? Put down the name of your nearest male guardian or in the event that you have none, simply the name of whoever takes care of you. One girl writes down the name of her pastor, the only man in her life that she trusts. Many others the name of their grandfather. A few simply make a general invitation to their families.
All of this made me do a serious double take on what I was accomplishing here as a teacher. I came to Guatemala to work with young people, to help them along life’s road. As a teacher with no training and limited communication skills I had been wondering if I was still accomplishing that goal. Because of these simple things I realized I am still doing exactly what I came here to do. And that perhaps I am doing more than what I thought for my students.
The dead father? He was shot four years ago here in El Chal probably for refusing to cooperate with ransom demands.
The father in the states? He left his three-year-old girl and her mother and has had very little contact with them since.
The father who left? He simply disappeared leaving his girlfriend and baby behind.
The father who won’t come? He abandoned his first wife and family in favour of living with a new girlfriend and the children they now have together.
These are all problems that are all shockingly common here. Nine out of seventeen preteens in my grade eight class have a deceased or absent father. In some cases, they don’t know which. For those like me who don’t compute numbers well, that’s over fifty percent of my students!
Fathers day caused me to start looking at my students in a different way. Many of my students are absolutely starving for the approval and affirmation of a father figure in their lives. Although I have always known these facts on some level, these simple things brought it home for me in a way that stuck with me.
Although these things have all been happening for some time, I now see them in a different light. Can I communicate everything that I want to my students? No. Will they leave my classes having received the best academic education that they could have had this year? No. But they CAN leave my room this year with a living breathing example of what it means to be a man and more importantly what it means to be a Christian.
Needless to say, I feel the responsibility of leading by example more strongly than ever now knowing that so many eyes are fastened on me. However, I have also found that discovering these truths has liberated some part of me to enjoy my work more than I have all year. I have a renewed vision and energy that will carry me for some time to come.
Matthew 19:13-15 The disciples rebuked the people but Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.
In His service. Guatemala division.