It seems like a good time to tell this story. In light of the bombings in Boston, the media’s choice of words, and social media lit up with speculation and prejudice, it can make a girl lose hope. Especially a girl who hopes that someday we can respect each other, hold our emotions, and our tongues, wait for the truth, display some wisdom and believe the best about the majority of our fellow humans. Yes, Boston was a tragedy not to be taken lightly but even on that day, there were more acts of love, more acts of selflessness, more acts of heroism and bravery than there were of violence and cowardice. Evil does not, will not, win.
Amid the anti-Muslim rhetoric that spewed almost immediately were a few touching moments in our classes. Children concerned that this was being blamed on Muslims before there was any proof but also another moment in a younger class (grade 4) where the tragedy on the other side of the world was not mentioned.
I have the privilege of sitting in the back of many classes doing work that allows me to listen in and sometimes participate in the class. I get a very rare front row seat to the frustrations, the funny moments and the poignant moments. Yesterday was one of best moments so far.
Maybe I put too much hope in what we’re doing here but here’s my hope…I hope that by mixing with these young Qatari children that they will know something of the west that they will not learn from the T.V. I hope that I can understand them and they can understand me. I hope that we can cultivate acceptance, and even respect for one another and bring information and understanding where there is fear and suspicion now. I hope that when someone in the west makes and distributes a disgusting movie about Islam or burns a Quran (etc) that these children will be able to say…”But remember Mr. so-and-so? He wasn’t like that. Remember Ms. So-and-so? I bet she would be angry that they did that. They’re not ALL like that.”
I know that I have grown in my understanding of them and their culture as I collect names and faces and stories of people I know who have hopes and dreams and gifts to give the world. There are some beautiful Syrian children at our school and the thought that they have cousins and siblings who are still in Syria breaks my heart and brings the whole situation to me in a technicolour that T.V. can’t match.
Anyhow – yesterday at school as I sat in the back of the 4th grade class, my friend, a passionate, lively, devout Catholic woman was teaching a lesson. The class was asked to do a writing exercise on a hero of theirs. She began by giving them an example.
“My hero,” she told them, “is a woman named Mother Teresa. She was a tiny little woman with a huge heart. She was very brave.” My friend captivated the class with the story of a young woman who left her home and family and travelled to far-away India where there were people dying of many diseases. These people were homeless and left to die alone. You could have heard a pin drop. This little woman decided to dedicate her life to serving the poorest of the poor, to comfort those who were dying. Many people heard about the work she was doing. Many went to help her. She was very strict about some things…you knelt down to the dying persons level, you looked them in the eye, you touched them (NO gloves!) while you were talking to them and you made them feel loved. If you couldn’t do that, she didn’t want you there.
Throughout her life she became very famous for this work and she had the opportunity to meet with very important people. She met with Kings and Presidents and asked them for financial help for the poorest of the poor. She didn’t want anything for herself. The class followed the teacher as she moved around the room talking. They were all listening, all fascinated.
The teacher went on to tell them that not everyone was happy with what Mother Teresa was doing in the beginning. This woman was a Christian and she was helping people of a different religion and creating quite a stir. Many people did not like a woman of a different religion coming to help them. The religions were not mixing well and many people didn’t like it.
One of the boys suddenly sat up straight “But Miss! Allah liked it!” The teacher beamed…”yes” she said, “I believe that as well. I believe that Allah liked it.”
We have that in common. All of the major religions believe in kindness, charity to those who are in need, and love.
May the teachers of the world, (be they in the classroom, in the courtroom, at the kitchen table, behind the guitars or with shovels or medical charts in their hands) be encouraged, there is hope.
Keep speaking the peace friends. Don’t be discouraged.
(Happy Birthday to a great teacher. You are a gift to your students.)