I started tutoring in Santa Matilde last school year. There is so much need in this village because many of the kids are the first in their families to be literate or to go to school. They don’t have anyone at home to help them be successful in their classes.
School began in February and we started grade-specific tutoring groups. I work with the third and fourth graders. The first day, I was trying to get a handle on where the kids were as they learned place value. What exactly is the number 5482 versus 548?
I wrote out “2000” on a piece of paper and asked them what number that was. What I heard was not entirely what I expected. After I heard shouts of “TWO!” and “TWENTY,” I realized that we had a long way to go before we could get to the number 5482.
My next thought was, “Let’s see if they actually know that 2000 is bigger than 20 or 200.”
I told them “Let’s say I have 2000 cordobas (the currency here) and I tell you I am going to give you ALL my money! I’m going to give you every single cordoba that I have. Then, I only give you 200. What will you do?”
At this point, I was hoping I would hear things like, “Ask you for the rest of it!” or “Why didn’t you give me all 2000?” or “Where’s the rest?” Instead, their eyes lit up and one little girl shouts, “BUY FOOD!” With this, the group nods in agreement and I hear little voices saying that’s what they would do too.
I realized this might not have been the best example I could use and quickly changed gears. Looking back, I see what a statement this makes about their daily life. There is a continual struggle for survival. How can people plan ahead if they are trying to make it through today? How can kids focus on school and maybe rise out of poverty if their stomachs are growling louder than the teachers’ voices?
We walk a difficult line of empowering families and not creating a dependency. Of giving families the tools and resources to learn to provide for themselves. It’s not easy. I would be lying if I said there was always an easy solution. There’s not. So many of the situations break my heart. And then, they don’t get better. It’s not easy. Sometimes the only help I can think of is hidden in a hug, a prayer, or looking into their eyes and telling them how valuable they are to God. Through love and HOPE.
G.K. Chesterton has a lot to say about hope. He says, “Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances which we know to be desperate.” I don’t think this just means a fake, put a smile on your face kind of cheerful. It means trusting and maintaining JOY. He also says, “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless.” If we are hoping, we are EXPECTING. Expecting that He “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” can, will, and wants to show up.