Thursday, October 17, 2013

Child-like Joy

Yesterday I tutored some of the sweetest kids I've ever met. Our church has a partnership with a local elementary school; we provide supplies for the students, lunches for the teachers, support etc. It is a wonderful idea (the church I grew up in also does this) and frankly, I think we need more churches involved in the public schools. Many of the students at this elementary school are Hispanic and quite a few of them live in a trailer park right near our church. 

We have started an after-school tutoring program for the kids in this neighborhood and every week more kids show up. Members of the church go and pick up the kids and we provide homework assistance, tutoring, and a yummy snack. It is WONDERFUL. Wednesday have become my favorite day of the work week because I get to see these sweet kids. Let me tell you about these kids.

Many of them, although not all, are Hispanic and have immigrated here from Mexico and Central/South America (a lot from Honduras).  A lot of them speak very little English, although they are learning incredibly fast! From the moment they walk in the door these kids are running and laughing, hugging us and capturing our attention. We let them play on the playground for a few minutes, then they head up to meet the tutors. My favorite part is when they come running up the stairs for tutoring, laughing and squealing because they are EXCITED to learn and complete their homework. Wow. I don't know many kids like that. They coming running in hugging all of us and overflowing with joy. Honestly, just thinking about their faces makes me almost tear up. 

I have been working with the fourth graders, specifically two kids that speak essentially no English. The first day I shocked them when I started talking in Spanish, say what?! A blonde-hair, blue-eyed girl talking in Spanish? We're slowly tackling their homework, which is ridiculously hard for them, but boy do they give it all they've got. Last week, I realized that one of the girls I've been working with not only does not know English, she is illiterate in Spanish too. Fourth grade and she doesn't even know the alphabet in Spanish. Oh that sweet, sweet girl. Life has been unfair for her but she is fighting on and asking lots of questions. My heart hurts for these kids when I hear of their childhood- moving from one country to the next, little schooling and a huge educational gap, but then I hear that laughter and remember that they STILL have so much joy because there is so much more to life than learning new vocab words. 

Every week I drive a few of the kids home, stopping to drop each one off at their trailer. And every week, I'm blown away by their living situation. The playground in the neighborhood is definitely not up to code and the kids told me "bad" things happen there like drugs. Many of the trailers are decaying away, but that joy, oh that joy they have. Children have so much to offer and teach us; I'm learning new things from them each week. Every week I am reminded that no matter what our life is like JOY can be found. What an incredible thing to know at such a young age, more than vocab words, or multiplication, these kids know of joy!

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