Thursday, June 16, 2011

unfinished business

This post was written on June 14.

On my wall in my bedroom, I have two lists: one is entitled “ongoing projects”; the other, “long term goals.” Both were created about ten months ago, now, as a way to remind myself of the things I needed to keep on my mind on a daily basis, as well as in the long view. With one month left in Kerala, now seems like a good time to evaluate how well I’ve done.

The “ongoing projects” list reads:
            1. Class lesson plans
            2. KNH Hostel
            3. Writing project
            4. Zumba
            5. Blog

How well did I keep up with all of those, you ask? Well, teaching up to 5 periods a day, it would have been impossible to function without lesson plans. So I’ve been good about being prepared. My weekly visits with the girls of the KNH Hostel have gone well, although there has been a week or two here and there that I haven’t been able to meet with them due to scheduling conflicts on both of our parts. The ‘writing project’ refers to an English ‘magazine’ that I was supervising/editing for about half of the year—it got 1st place in a local competition! Exercise class, Zumba, has continued on, even if it’s occasionally just me and Aleena (which doesn’t bother either of us a bit :)). And I’ve been blogging as frequently as I hoped to, which makes me happy for the sake of keeping all of you informed, and for having my own record of the most memorable people/places/events of this year.

The “long term projects” list reads:
            1. Learn Malayalam
            2. Lose 5kg
            3. Be accepted to Seminary
            4. “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle
            unknown to you”
            5. …be the best YAV ever!

Now, I certainly did not learn Malayalam. Fluently, I mean. But I can read and write, understand a fair amount, and have a decent sized vocabulary/speaking ability of my own. I think if I were here for another year, I’d be in business! And I did lose 5 kg (although, I gained it before I lost it...but who’s counting?). I was accepted to Seminary, and I’ll speak on the 4th task in the next paragraph. With regard to the 5th, I may not have been the best YAV ever, but I was the best YAV that I could be, and if you ask me, that’s a better measure, anyway.

On to the 4th task: “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle unknown to you.” This is one point where I may have, at times, fallen short. I was reminded of this task on my list today as I was walking from school to my bedroom, where I wanted to drop a few things off. I had just taught 3 classes in a row, was muddy after walking around campus in the rain all day, and just wanted a moment of quiet. So I may not have been very friendly as girl after girl stopped or approached me in the hallway with cries of “HI MADISON MISS!” “Madison Miss, how are you??” “Madison miss, chor undo?” (Did you have lunch?). “Madison Miss, evide pokuka?” (Where are you going?). “Madison Miss, those are beautiful earrings!” “Madison Miss, HI!!!!!!” I wanted to get through the throng, FAST, and gave rushed answers that didn’t invite conversation to all of the girls as I passed by. Just as I thought I was home free, I heard another “MADISON MISS!” behind me, accompanied by running footsteps. I momentarily considered continuing walking as if I hadn’t heard, but looked over my shoulder to at least give a “hi” back and wave.

Who did I see but little 6th grade Roopa running up to me, with something in her hand. “Madison Miss, a present for you!” It was a card, wrapped in a handmade envelope that had a red ribbon pinned on it. The annoyance I had been feeling the moment earlier melted away as I accepted Roopa’s card and told her thank you, with a huge, genuine smile that had been missing from my face just prior.

I finally made it to my room and opened Roopa’s handmade card. The front has a border of flowers and butterflies, a bear, and my name encircled by a heart. The inside says “Dear Miss, I wish you a happy birthday! God bless you with my blessing! By, Roopa G. Nath,” accompanied by swirls, stars, bows, and the like. The back of the card is decorated with a house surrounded by green trees, a lake with a duck, and a smiley-faced sun who says “Good morning Madison Miss!”

Roopa, how could you have possibly known exactly how to brighten my day? I wondered. And I thought of the quote on my list: “be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle unknown to you.” Roopa=success. Madison=fail. All those girls who spoke to me in the hallway…what if I had taken a moment to talk to them, rather than hurrying by, inwardly annoyed? What if that would have made them smile? What might they face at home after they leave school at 3:25 every day?

So it seems there’s at least one thing on my ‘to do’ lists that I can’t yet check off—but from now on, I’ll be working on it a little more conscientiously. Thanks for the reminder, Roopa :)

"I expect to pass through life but once.  If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again." -William Penn

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