I didn’t know that it would hit me this hard. As soon as Piero extended his 6-year-old arms toward me, my vision blurred. I could no longer see clearly, or think clearly for that matter, and I no longer wanted to leave. What really struck my heart was that he wouldn’t let go, he didn’t want to let go. It wasn’t me trying my hardest to hold on to him. It wasn’t me prolonging class an extra five minutes to get more time with them. It wasn’t me demanding hugs at the end of every class. It was him; rather, it was all of them. They didn’t want to let go, and I didn’t want to let them.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt such love in one hug.
Size certainly does not determine the quality or the quantity of love that’s possible to show in one embrace. At that moment, I felt completely vulnerable. Vulnerable because I thought I could no longer help these children. Vulnerable because there’s every possibility in the world that I will never see these children again; I don’t even know their last names. Vulnerability overtook me because in that instant, God told me why I had come to this country and how I can make myself better. Humility swept every other emotion away.
God showed me that despite my doubts, hesitations and qualms, I had actually made a difference. I pray with all of my heart that these kids will remember me – not necessarily remember that I taught them how to greet someone in English and that conejo means rabbit, they’ll probably forget that in two months – but that they remember me because I poured the contents of my heart into caring for them and lovingly teaching them to the best of my ability.
I will certainly never forget their miniature hands raising their messily decorated tongue depressors (palitos), – a tool I used for when they wanted to be called on: no palito, no opportunity to speak – their miniature wingspan pressing open to give the biggest, most loving hug I’ve felt, their undeniable thirst for knowledge, their ability to learn English so quickly; even better, their desire to learn English that was unparalleled with any of my other classes.
They looked at me with their wide, almost-black puppy eyes as more than just an American girl, more than a volunteer, more than someone who will be out of their lives in four weeks, more than just their teacher. That look cannot be described, cannot be duplicated, cannot be forgotten.
This might just sum it up, though:
Ruth, one of my second-grade students, wrote this on my goodbye note:
Para: Mis Carli
Yo te quiero mucho mis Carli
Usted es como mi mama
Nunca voy a dejar de pensar de usted
For Miss Carlita
I like you a lot, Miss Carlita
You are like my mom
I will never stop thinking about you
This, from a six-year-old.
I praise God for this opportunity, I praise Him that He worked so mightily in me to affect these kids’ lives. They certainly changed mine.
Do everything in love.