“I’m ready! Hurry, mom, we will be late!” Yuna called as she stood by the door of our 3rd story rental; Her backpack was stocked full of essential items needed for her new class, and she was eager to get going.
MayLa wasn’t as excited. “Mom, do I have to go? I feel weird there.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie. Ask for courage from the Lord and put your shoes on.” I said in a rush as I grabbed our umbrella. And so off we went on 2 rikshaws to teach our class.
It would only be our third time there, and already my heart was growing fond of a few of them. And Yuna was smitten the very first day when one of the girls, about 15, with a huge smile and forever childlike enthusiasm of a 6-year-old befriended her. MayLa had never been exposed to anyone different than herself and all these adults that she was supposed to respect didn’t look very respectable to her, and she wasn’t sure how to handle this new situation at all.
We arrived to the blue gate and entered the familiar green grassed courtyard perfectly manicured and tended to by the staff and tenants of this home. We were greeted by Yuna’s new friend Khambi. With a smile so big and squeals of delight she wabbled slowly but as fast as she could towards Yuna. After hugs and love we entered the mostly bare room, with one desk in front and red and brown plastic chairs for each student.
And there they sat. All 20 of them. Staring at me. Well, most of them anyways. Some were already asleep or staring at the ground or looking around the room. Mostly women with about 6 men. All different. So, different. Different languages and mental/physical conditions and different life stories.
Thrown to the wolves, the Sister literally rounded them up for us and left, saying, “This is the Sister Teacher; she will teach you now.”
We learned after the first two times of being there that we were going to have to separate them somehow. Five of them knew English quite well, ten knew some words, and about 5 of them knew no English at all. Seven of them wanted to learn things, about 11 of them would stay involved but didn’t desire to learn, and four of them, well, they were just there. Sometimes.
Tardy, the one I called, Grandma, walked into the room. I remembered her! I will never forget the old woman that, on my first day there, stood up and kicked me and then sat back down in her chair. I was caught off guard but decided to go with the flow and use it to teach English. Bowing in the traditional Indian style of respect, I said, “Grandma kicked me, Grandma mad. I am sorry Grandma, “and the class laughed very hard at this. Thankfully, Grandma walked in happier this time, and I welcomed her again with the bow of respect due to the elderly, and this time, she bowed back with the same bow of respect to me as a teacher! Praise God, there is hope.
But, as I stare at them with no idea how to proceed, I am 100% reliant on God at this moment. “God, I do not wish to upset anyone or to breach boundaries, I do not wish to offend, and I am not even sure who goes where or how to move some of them physically. God help me, these are your children whom you love, and you have to help me love them the way you desire me to.”
I am still not sure how but we managed to get them into 2 separate classes. One class with the ones that knew zero English or seemed to us to be forever a child, in the hallways with Yuna teaching with a sensory storytelling experience she had been so excited about teaching, and the rest of the people with me learning English in the main room.
The class was going well, and I had a few different exercises I did that helped me further identify the abilities of each one. I found that three of the people in my group were very intelligent but just didn’t know English. One of them a woman who used to be a professor but would only talk if spoken to and had no emotions; She quite possibly has schizophrenia. And another girl, about 20, appeared to have severe Muscular Dystrophy and was almost nonverbal but desired to learn more than anyone else there. This girl named Albin would end up dominating my thoughts as I wanted so badly to help her. A few there seemed to have Alzheimer’s. It would take me months to learn each person’s needs.
These were people! Real people. Just like me. In fact, with my TBI, it was very probable that one day I would be one of these people. As the reality sunk in, my heart grew. I was so overwhelmed with God’s love I hugged one of the girls that helped me clean up the chairs when class was finished. Her name was Bina. With stunted growth a face that was un-telling of any age and an IQ of about 40, she had a servant’s heart. Her family didn’t want her, yet I found her to be the most pleasant and helpful person. She did everything for the sisters and me, always in service always at peace and very quiet. At this moment and only for a moment, I seen as God sees her. She was way more beautiful and worthy of praise than me. Adorned in righteousness and glowing with inner beauty that rivaled Snow White; she was someone I aspired to be.
I had much to learn about being a true child of God.