Nervousness and excitement competed for prominence in my mind as I arrived for my first day of classes. The school, in the small town of Chicxulub in Mexico, had an open-air courtyard with classrooms around the perimeter. It was nothing like the modern schools we have in Canada.
I waited outside for a few minutes and entered together with my fellow teaching volunteers. The crowded room was set up with six tables. Each could seat four students and two teachers.
Before the children arrived, we spent thirty minutes getting acquainted, reviewing the lesson plan and distributing supplies for the day.
The students were led from their regular classroom into our room. They entered to our greeting of, “Good Afternoon” and chose where they wanted to sit. Of the 28 registered in the class, only 17 were present that day; 5 boys and 12 girls. This number varied from week to week and we never had a full class.
The first task was for the students to make nametags. They wrote, I am and their name on a card that was placed in a lanyard around their necks. Along with the students and other teachers I stood in turn, held up my nametag and said, “I am Tandy.” This was our first lesson and the way each class would start.
The children were polite and extremely reserved. It was a challenge to get them to speak loudly enough to be heard. Over the next two months, this shyness persisted for most of them.
Each component of the lesson plan was explained in English and Spanish from the front of the room. Some phrases were written on a white board so they could be referred to.
Then we would work with the students at our table to help them learn necessary words in this foreign language. Over the weeks we taught them through the use of flash cards with words and pictures. They learned: I am, I have, I want and I need. As we added: I am not, I do not have, I do not want and I do not need they were able to form simple sentences with the flash cards. Colours, people, animals and simple objects were incorporated into these sentences. To understand the correct meaning of the words and sentences they formed was quite an accomplishment.
Numbers were also taught. They knew the numerals, but the English words for them proved difficult. We played games to make it enjoyable. In some cases, like when we played Snakes and Ladders, they were having so much fun, it didn’t seem like learning!
Our hour-long classes passed quickly. Each week, the happy students would line up, a table at a time to leave the classroom. They were handed a simple snack and would say, “Thank you” to which a reply of, “You are welcome” was given. As well as a treat, this provided another opportunity to practice English words.
After two months we came to our last class. These students were in grade 6 and this is the final mandatory year for attending school. Most would not continue their education. We were in an economically challenged area and families could not afford to keep their children in school. We hoped the little we’d been able to teach them would be of benefit to them in the future.
As the class ended, the children surprised each teacher with handmade cards of thanks. Some even contained a few of the English phrases learned. I received my cards and hugs of thanks with tears of gratitude. The opportunity to have been part of this important program was a highlight of my time in Mexico. I look forward to returning to volunteer again next year.
Have you ever found something that seemed to be just what you needed when you didn’t even know you were looking for anything?
That’s what happened to me when I read the social media post.
A call for volunteers touched a chord deep within and I was compelled to respond. Emails were exchanged, information given, a questionnaire completed and I was accepted as part of a team to teach English to Mexican students.
We were divided into groups and I was one of those placed with a grade six class.
An orientation was held the week prior to starting. This answered questions and gave us valuable information on the school and the students we’d be working with.
The school system here houses two separate schools in the same building. One has classes in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Each have their own teachers and principal. We’d be in the afternoon school for one hour a week.
We were told that the school was in an extremely poor area and the majority of the students came from homes with no electricity.
Grade six is the last mandatory grade and very few would carry on with their education past this level. The children had little hope for the future, and were resigned to their lot in life.
Our job was to give them some basic language skills and to make it enjoyable. Fun for both the students and teachers was important to this program.
We would also take turns providing a snack for the students. This would be handed out as the students lined up to leave the room at the end of the class. Many would take this snack home to share with younger siblings.
That evening as I sat under electric lights with plenty of food in my fridge and cupboards, I reflected on the vastly different lifestyle, only a few kilometers away. I prayed that I would use the abundance I’ve been given to ease another’s burden and not take for granted what I have.
Although I wouldn’t meet the students for another week, I knew they had already impacted my life.
The words came from behind me. I heard, “That’s good,” then, “Magnificent.” After a slight pause came, “Really nice.”
I only had to wait a few moments to see who was the recipient of this encouragement. A young boy rode past me on his bicycle. He wobbled a little. A slightly older brother followed closely and continued his support and encouragement as they carried on down the path.
The words of one gave confidence to his brother to keep going. These boys were a perfect example of the impact our words can have on each other.
Later, on another area of pathway, I came across words written in coloured chalk. They said, “You are loved.” The child who wrote these words brightened my day and probably that of many others as well.
Our words have the power to wound, discourage and anger. They can also bring healing, support, and a sense of well-being. In these troubled and uncertain times, I have observed too many cases of words used as weapons.
I am reminded of a passage in the Bible where it says, “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” In today’s language, this would say, beat their swords into shovels and their spears into hoes.
To me, this shows our weapons can be modified into tools used to cultivate a better life. Instead of attacking each other, we can work together for the common good.
Like it or not, my words will have an impact on others. Do I want them to cause hurt and dissention or do I want them to offer encouragement so we can work together to create a better future? The decision is up to each of us. I’ve made my choice, how about you?
I met her in a lineup where we were both waiting to pay for items of clothing.
This lady was so excited with the garment she was about to purchase, she couldn’t resist telling me about it.
“When I saw this on a mannequin, I knew I had to have it,” she told me. “I don’t even know how much it cost!” She carried on to tell me this was for her six-year-old granddaughter. She explained that the two of them looked alike, and her granddaughter always says, “Same, Same, Nana.”
The little girl would be thrilled to experience the same, same in matching outfits.
I thought back to my mom knitting matching sweaters for my young daughter and I and a Cabbage Patch doll! For a child, wearing the same type of clothing as someone they look up to, helps them feel as important as that person is to them.
As an adult, I no longer want to be dressed exactly the same as someone else. I have, however, looked for other ways to emulate people I admired. If I tried to duplicate their methods, could I be as successful? Could I copy their mannerisms and be as popular?
The trouble was, I could never do enough to be the same as someone else. It left me frustrated and feeling like a failure.
My efforts to be the same caused me to lose sight of my own unique qualities. I had to learn to accept and appreciate who I am and what I have to offer. Only then did I feel good about my own accomplishments.
Now, I am willing to learn from others but my goal is no longer to be the same as anyone else. Instead, I am happy to become the best version of me.
“I’ll give you my wise woman discount,” she said. “Thank you,” I replied, before joking, “Is that your nice way of saying senior?”
The answer both surprised and pleased me. I was told of her belief that seniors have much accumulated wisdom, so she truly thought of them as wise. She also told me that too many people don’t recognize or appreciate this. Needless to say, I was quickly gaining respect for this young woman!
For many years, I didn’t think of myself as wise. I don’t have the formal education that many do. I don’t always make good decisions. It took a long time to realize that these facts don’t negate the wisdom I’ve gained in my lifetime.
My wisdom has come from experience. I can’t speak for others in my age category, but for me, many of the learning experiences in my life have come from mistakes I’ve made. The longer I live, the more opportunity I have to make mistakes. They are an inevitable part of life. Over the years I’ve discovered that my mistakes have enabled me to gain wisdom.
When any of us are willing to be vulnerable and pass our experiences on to others, wisdom is shared. It’s nice to know that all the mistakes don’t have to be mine. I can learn from yours as well!
One of my favourite sources of wisdom comes from children. I have heard some profound things from my grandchildren. Young children don’t filter their words. They say what they think and feel. I have learned a lot from paying attention to them.
So, while I appreciate being called wise, I know it’s as a result of the mistakes I’ve made and also from paying attention to what I can learn from others. I’m also wise enough to accept the wise woman discount when it’s offered!
Once upon a time a man fell in love with a mother of two young children. A wedding took place and they became a family.
As the children grew, he was there to instruct and watch over them. They were nourished, cared for and disciplined when necessary. He loved his children. They loved him in return and knew he always had their best interests at heart.
Years passed quickly and the children became young adults. They were now old enough to make their own decisions. One day they approached their father with a question. “Will you legally adopt us?” they asked.
The man was overjoyed. He had always considered them to be his children. Now they wanted to officially state that they belonged to him.
This story flooded me with emotion. As a good father who had loved and taken care of these children for many years, the man now had the great joy of knowing the children were taking his name.
This man’s joy was an example of my Heavenly Father’s response when one of his beloved children comes before him with the same request.
I picture him rejoicing over each of his children who choose to be identified with His name. God’s arms are outstretched to receive us to himself. There is much more I could share about my Heavenly Father and my relationship with Him. For now, I’ll close by telling you, since I asked Him to make me one of His children, my life is more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined.
“Consider this: The Father has given us his love. He loves us so much that we are actually called God’s dear children. And that’s what we are.” 1 John 3:1
Plate in hand, Miss K headed to the kitchen for the last piece of dessert. I noticed a slight hesitation as she approached the counter and said, “You don’t have to have it now. If you’re too full, you can wait until you’re ready. I’ll make sure it’s saved for you.”
She looked at me and said, “Wow, you have a superpower! I was going to ask if you’d save it for me but you knew what I was thinking before I said it.” “Did you hear that?” I said to my husband. “I have a superpower!”
Miss H, (who had already eaten her dessert), challenged me with, “If you have really have a superpower, tell me what I’m thinking.”
“You’re wondering if I really know what you’re thinking,” I replied. Her mouth dropped open in shock that I read her mind! She agreed that I must have a superpower.
My husband and I were still laughing about this the next day. I definitely do not have the power to read minds.
I could, however, understand why they might have thought this to be true. In both cases I was able to discern what had not been expressed in words. This is not always the case.
I wonder if I can develop the ability to look at someone, sense what they need and act on it. In order to do this, I would have to take the focus from myself and my needs and turn it outward. In other words, I would love others as much as I love myself.
This empathy and compassion would enable others to recognize their value, and in turn, contribute to peace, love and fulfillment in the world around me. Love is the best superpower of all.
I was standing in the grass on a highway median, doing my best to keep three little girls occupied while a tire on their parents’ vehicle was being changed. They were starting to get restless when I spotted movement in the tall grass.
Showing them the grasshopper was a wonderful distraction. Soon we were on the hunt for more of these insects.
Two of the girls excitedly spotted several more and delighted in watching them hop. The other one complained that she couldn’t see grasshoppers; all she could see were bugs. Explaining that they were the grasshoppers didn’t help. She wanted nothing to do with them.
Reflecting on this later, I wondered how often I’d missed the wonder of something new because I couldn’t see past my perception of what I thought it should be.
Life is full of exciting adventures, but only if I open my heart and mind to accept and receive them. Immediately deciding that I don’t want or like something means I’ll miss these discoveries. It’s when I forget my routine life and enter into the adventure that I can truly experience all the wonders in store for me.
This story was taken from my book Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake
Way back in time, when I was a child, play times with friends were not normally prearranged. We just headed outside and down the street until we found someone to play with.
Much was the same when my children were young. They went into the neighbourhood, connected with friends and came back home for dinner.
Today, between the busy work schedules of parents and extracurricular activities for kids, this is more challenging. Add in the media warnings not to leave children unattended and the kind of play other generations participated in is no longer commonplace.
The social interaction of play is important so play dates are arranged in order to make it happen.
If this is a good idea for children, it makes sense to me the same would hold true for adults. My friends and I may have good intentions but we can go months without actually seeing each other.
When it does happen it’s usually two of us meeting at a coffee shop or over lunch. After an hour or so, we are both on our way again.
I decided I wanted more than that so arranged a play date with three other friends. We met at the home studio of another friend and spent an entire afternoon talking and laughing as we stepped out of our comfort zone and learned to work with resin.
The afternoon was a success. Everyone agreed we should do it again next month. The projects we created were a bonus as the real prize was the time spent having fun together. My biggest take away from the day was that play dates are good for adults too!
My husband was mowing the lawn at our son’s house when our granddaughters came home from school. Two came out to see him. One of the girls had a friend with her and hesitated before making an introduction. Then she turned to her friend and said, “This is the guy who comes to cut our grass.”
Brian choked back his laughter at the time but was still chuckling about it when he got home. We joked about this unusual introduction and knew it made a funny story to tell. It also made me stop and think.
We talked about the reasoning behind this. My husband was not there in his role as a grandfather; instead, he was in the back yard mowing the lawn. He was defined that day by what he was doing, not who he was.
How often do we describe ourselves by what we do? I know I’ve been guilty of this. When asked about myself I tend to tell you I’m a wife, mother and grandmother. You may learn about some of the jobs I’ve held, my volunteer activities or that I am now retired. You’ll definitely hear about my grandchildren!
These are all an important part of the woman I’ve become but they don’t define me. There is much more to me than that. I am an observer of life, a lover of nature and an encourager who is passionate about sharing from my heart.
Unless I communicate with you on a deeper level you will only know me by what I do and not who I am.
I’d like to know you better. What are your passions? Help me learn who you are.