Children say the most incredible things. The Psalmist said “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” One of the most joyful parts of my life are the moments when my children lighten my load with their childlike humor. A few weeks ago Megan asked me why I was not a normal ‘amma. When I asked her what her idea of normal was, the answer was “a normal ‘amma sits in a rocking chair, reads stories and makes cookies.” I guess she is right, I am not a normal ‘amma; although I do make cookies every once in a while.
Those who know me know that I am not fond of mornings. Many nights it takes hours for me to be able to get to sleep and the alarm rings all too early. Every morning I fight a battle of between my every weakening body and my will. Or as my dad would say my “get up and go is stuck in neutral.” My body desires to pull the covers up, stay in that bed and knows that as soon as I begin to walk the pain will start over again, my will knows that there is work to be done, a school to administrate, a house to run and I need to get my household moving and going to face the new day. It is on those mornings and when I battle and fight constant frustrations with government paperwork that changes overnight, battle with a ministry of education that specializes in inefficiency, worry trying to make ends meet, days when I rob Peter to pay Paul and then figure out how to repay Peter. Days that the kids do nothing but fight, the teachers don’t do their jobs, the tire blows out on the car, the mayor closes the road, and the bus gets stuck in the mud going around the back road to get kids to school. Days that Satan does everything in his power to discourage me, days that everything that could possibly go wrong does, it is those days that I wonder, “What am I doing?” It is on those days I am tempted to give up and be a “normal ‘amma” as Megan would say. Days when it would be so nice to turn off the lights, close the door and go to the beach.
Then God knocks on the door and life sets in and I am reminded for whom and why I live and breathe. I often tell people that Morning Glory is more than teaching children to read and write. Morning Glory is more than a classroom where children learn to add two plus two. It is more than a place where kids play soccer and the girls learn to dance, it is even more than a Bible class. Morning Glory is a place that changes tomorrow.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon going through thirty years of photographs choosing the ones to use in a special presentation. Each photo brought a memory, a smile or a tear to my heart. Photos of loved ones gone on before, pictures of houses that are no more, gardens that gave way to soccer fields, empty lots that became classrooms, toddlers who are no adolescents, pig tails and braids, freckles and toothless grins, now young ladies and young men.
Two pictures sit on my desk this morning. Each picture is of an eight year old Mayan girl from the village where Morning Glory is located, one girl lives behind the school in a tin roof shack and the other girl lives a block away up the road in an identical shack. Both girls wear the Indian dress, both girls come from poverty stricken families and uneducated parents. Both girls were in second grade in 2001 when I took over the small struggling school. Both girls come from large families. One named Dorcas and one named Vilma. Both girls were extremely bright and giggled and laughed like all little girls are prone to do. I can close my eyes and see the girls giggling and chattering in the corner of the classroom.
One year later I sat in the dirt floor kitchens of the homes of each girl trying to persuade the parents to allow the girls to continue school. In each home I met the resistance of parents who considered that education for a girl was a waste of time and energy. In both homes the parents refused to contemplate wasting money on the education of a daughter. In both homes I offered to cover all the costs, buy the books, provide the school supplies and make sure that the girls had everything they needed to continue to study. In one home I won, in one home I lost. Vilma got to stay in school; Dorcas had to stay home and make tortillas and help her mom. Dorcas would walk by with her tub of corn on her head on the way to the mill to grind it for tortillas and stand at the gate and gaze with longing at the children in class and recess. She would shyly wave when I would pass her on the road my van full of children on their way to school and tomorrow, Dorcas on the way to nowhere with little brother tied on her back.
Dorcas came back into my life two weeks ago. She came into the medical clinic to give birth to her second child. Sadly the child didn’t make it and Dorcas buried her baby in poverty and tears of want. Dorcas has known nothing but want and abuse in her short seventeen years. The giggles and chatter have long ago left her life. Old before her time, a child made into a woman she walked home with the same lost look in her eyes that I saw a short eight years ago. My heart broke; I should have insisted more, I should have fought harder for her…what if I had convinced her mom and dad…..?
Vilma? you ask, what happened to the other little girl? The battle I won. Vilma graduated from Morning Glory with honors, went on to secondary school with the help of Mary Ann Brown and others like you. Vilma was in the top of her class for three years at secondary school, won a full scholarship to teaching school in Guatemala City and is one year away from graduation as a fully certified primary school teacher. Vilma still giggles like a little girl, chatters like a parrot when she brings me her grade card to proudly show me her excellent progress.
One village, identical poverty stricken homes, uneducated parents, both girls of Indian descent, both the same age…..What made the difference?
So tomorrow morning when my body rebels, when my old bones don’t want to move, when the pain screams at me; tomorrow when I yell at the mayor about the closed road, when I rob Peter to pay Paul, when envious people make my way hard, when I am tempted to give up, when I spend long hours at the computer trying to make ridiculous government programs work. Tomorrow when I am tempted to make cookies and sit in my chair and read stories to my granddaughters and be a normal ‘amma. I will look up at two pictures and remember why.