I’m not the kindest person. There’s no need for an ID but one of my names is Mood Ruiner, especially when I am in the mood. It’s a habit I’m trying to change. I smile the sweetest, but nobody tells me about attitude. I am inclined to push the envelope when the wrong buttons are pressed. So the question is, how do I survive with these kids on weekends?
One word: love.
That love was placed under the furnace this Sunday. Actually, many Sundays. I don’t think I have noticed this feeling before back in Northville 9, a place of the less-privileged and less-literate. Them, those dirty-faced rascals running barefoot with their tattered clothes, hands in the air. I love the sun on their cheeks, the wind in their hair, the way they looked at world without a care and how they laughed at the littlest things. They could be hard to make still, but once I get their attention (basically by paper and Crayola), we could go on quiet days.
San Isidro UMC had a different set of kids. They go to school. They’re clean. They don’t scream at the top of their lungs during Kids Choir time (something I’d like to change), but they don’t go running about barefoot, although they do ride a bike in the church premises. I wonder how they are allowed to do that? I mean, I can’t compare apples to oranges, but back at the home church…
Alright, back at the present church. This Sunday, the Anniversary Sunday, where the congregation arrived in purple and I in black (since I wasn’t able to get my shirt during the whole week and would not want to change) was when I spat both my b-side and my a-side all at once. I can understand how teachers can get angry so very easily. Kids can be rad nuggets and bad nuggets too. At that time, we were slumped on the floor, making artwork for our anniversary cards, when two of the kids, Ian and Airan, decided they would not join.
Airan drew on her card, decidedly left it on the floor and stared at nothingness because she made mali, while Ian was at the back, murmuring he won’t join the card-giving ceremony because it was “too difficult” and he made errors too.
“I don’t like kids who don’t finish their work,” I spat while smiling at Avril, who attended to her work religiously. “Airan, what would happen if this was a graded activity? Would you be like that at school?”
Yep. Conscience Pricker is my other name.
But Airan didn’t move. She just placed her chin on her knee and looked blank. I could see she wanted to join the activity, but ego is keeping her back. Ian, on the other hand, has folded his card into a smaller piece with his clumsy hands.
I looked at both of them and I realized this: Ah. They must be struggling with something. Ego is an easy-to-point negative term for adults, but as for kids, it could be just as simple as saying no and sticking to it. They don’t understand the whole thing. They don’t understand the wrongness or the complexity of it.
At that time, I saw myself. That just like them, I struggled keeping up too. That I had emotional thorns I hardly recognized were sticking out of my chest.
And so, a new approach. I took Airan’s paper and checked; the fault wasn’t that irreparable. “Here’s what we’ll do,” said I, taking the brown color, the same hue that almost made a wreck of her middle design. I know art. At least, some basics. “All we need to do is to cover the faults, and there. It looks fine and new.” Airan smiled. She took the crayon. Her cheeks flushed and the droopiness of her spirit became alive in an instant.
Ian, who was behind me, asked that I help him too, then started drawing again and, despite the many-folded card, gave me a two-star, two-heart in monochromatic blue green. He said proudly, “I’m going to draw the sun like you did on your card.”
Just like that, the two kids became well-oiled coloring machines that ended up with two lovely arts. They gave their cards. And during the long period where the older girls danced, they went back to the room to draw again. Successful transformation? Yes. But not only for them.
It was also for me.
Empathy teaches me to listen to cries unspoken. There are many those, usually manifested in sad, long faces; in short, angry bouts; in the turning of one’s back or in the slumping of one’s shoulders on a chair. And, being put to this place with more than a decade of Sunday School teaching under my belt, I know it must be for a reason more than just keeping time. More than just getting an activity done. I’m here to touch the lives of these kids; teach them to open up and lessen their struggles. I’m here to be a hand to help.
In the same way, they help me change too.
I am here to learn.