During this time of crisis in which we find ourselves, innovative methods of sharing God’s love with our partners, students and food recipients have to be found. Mass feeding programs, classrooms full of people, and large church gatherings are not safe for me or more importantly, the ones we serve.
One of the ideas we came up with was a modified version of distance learning. When I saw the impending quarantine, I decided to print as many of our study materials as possible. Workbooks, activity books, flash cards, whatever could be mustered, were printed and distributed to our families. I wasn’t sure how it would all work out, but I wanted to be as prepared as possible.
As previously stated, people stopped coming to large gatherings. Slowly the word got out that business as usual was not possible anymore. I was concerned that without guidance we would lose tremendous ground in our assault on education and poverty. Thankfully, miraculously this did not happen.
There is a family on the far west outskirts of Granada. It is typical in that the mother, father, and four children, one grandmother, two nieces, and a cousin reside in this shack of a domicile. Each provides what income they can. Each pitches in on the daily chores. There is always something on the wood campfire outside. Busyness engulfs the home like birds around a nest.
The grandmother was reticent in my presence at first. She has lived a long life and has seen white men come and go in her neighbor. All of them had big plans. Some did mountains of good at first. None of them persevered to the end. So the sight of another teacher was met with barely a nod, a barely audible “meh”, and a very nonchalant shrug.
Then I gave the children their books. It was to them, of course, Christmas in March. Each one grabbing and perusing and giggling, as I gave each their own material. One of the older boys riffled through his book and found a picture of Noah and his ark. He proudly showed it to me, pointed to one of the animals and said, “Elephant”. I smiled in approval, told him that he did a good job, and then the other kids started calling out different animal names.
“Tiger”, yelled one. “Lion”, said another. “Money”, the third chimed in. “Money, where do you see money?”
He pointed at the pair of monkeys pictured front and center of the drawing.
We went over the first lesson. I also talked to the parents about how important it was that they do something, anything, small or large every day. I explained how I would visit one time a week as long as I was allowed to travel. They tried to offer me some food, but I declined. I figured that the next few months would be difficult enough without me taking any nourishment from them. I told them I had food in my crock pot, which was true.
The next week, I ventured back to their little shack in order to check up on my students. They had each finished their assignments and were eager for me to grade them. I remember when I was young and couldn’t wait for that test when it was returned to me. I wasn’t always so happy after I got it back, but that is a different story.
I have been going back to their and almost 20 other homes, every week. I wear gloves and a mask. I take all necessary precautions. No hugs, no handshake, I come home, change clothes and shower after every visit. But we are still making a difference here. These families are consuming new information at astonishing rates. Folks are eager to learn.
I have been going to the family I spoke about for four weeks now. This time when I walked in the door, I was greeted by grandma. She had a sheepish grin, her eyes were lit with enthusiasm and she blurted out, “Hello, my name is Maria. How are you?” She said her scripted greeting and then hurriedly went back to her cooking.
I don’t know if the matriarch of the family will ever learn English. But it was her way of saying thank you.
This is my way of saying thank you. Your encouragement and support allows us to make the best of even these worst of times. I could not continue what I do without you.
I love you all very much. Be safe. Wash your hands. Stay connected.
Dios los bendiga