“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
The 1,740 math problems I just checked over didn’t feel like a small thing, but I know it is. It is a small thing, but we are seeking to do it with great love.
Since our neighbors were removed from their land in mid-2014, our definition of the word “neighbor” continues to grow. Each day we find more and more new friends coming to the door, kids who have heard about Bingo or the puzzles; adults who heard we would give them a bandage or a ride to the clinic when they are in labor.
Sometime in the last year, our community grew to include two young girls and their brothers. The whole families would come play in the evenings and community events, but the two girls, about 12 or 13, and the youngest little brothers, about 2 & 3, started spending nearly every day here.
We learned that the boys went to school, but the girls had to stop attending to watch their little siblings and help around the house. When there wasn’t laundry to be done or meals to be cooked, they meandered here, where there was at least a yard to explore, a playground to climb on, and even some games. Knowing they weren’t able to go to school, we tried to make it fun for them. I’d leave them matching games or toy cars to play with outside while we went to and fro.
It felt like something you read about in a book, as we watched these young girls unable to learn or go to school just because they were girls. So toward the end of last year, I had an idea.
We went into town and bought them a collection of books: a very basic English alphabet workbook, a basic English sentence workbook, an addition practice book, a subtraction practice book, a connect-the-dots coloring book. We bought them each a zipper pouch to put their workbooks in, as well as a couple pencils and pens and colored pencils. And then we bought a few cars and dinosaurs for the little boys.
We put it all together in a bag and hung it by the door. Just as all the kids trickled back into school last week after the Christmas holiday, I sat down one morning to explain it to them. I explained that it was theirs, and they could each choose the pouch they wanted, but they had to keep it at our house. Each day, when the kids are off to school, they can come to get it and play, do the worksheets, and have “school.” And before the kids come home from school, they have to pack it all up and put it back on the hook. I explained that we would have to come and go for work, but if they had any questions, they could ask for help.
I wasn’t really sure what they’d think.
We started with the easiest books, and it actually worked out just perfectly. It’s just simple enough for them to be confident, and then as it progresses they can ask for more help. For now, they are loving the math, but a little less excited about the alphabet practice. When I told them I had more workbooks, a little harder, for when they finished these, their eyes lit up and they gave a shy thank you.
For us, it’s a small thing. In many ways I wish I spent hours a day sitting down with them and teaching them new skills. Instead, we buy workbooks and I answer a few questions here and there and explain a new technique. I spend a few evenings each week going over their work and ensuring they still have pages left.
And of course I place a red smiley face at the top of each page, to both acknowledge their work and to send them all the “Attagirl”s I can muster into that little squiggle.
It’s a small thing, but we hope it shows them great love.
This year, my single goal was to maintain status quo: to not add more to my plate, to not say yes to more and more.
Instead, I’ve got two little students waiting in the mornings, and I just finished grading their work at 10pm. Instead, we were up into the wee hours of this morning creating a logo & Facebook page for our Flour & Flower deliveries. Instead, we’ve got a full day tomorrow as we add flour tortillas to our weekly deliveries, in an attempt to increase profits enough to hire & share the love with one more neighbor.
Because instead of just stopping where we are, we see more and more little cracks–cracks than can be filled! Crevices of opportunity. Fractures of individuals that have been overlooked. But God has put us here, for such a time as this, to see them and to love them in the very small things.