Wednesday, May 04, 2016

This Story Brought To You By Hope

I told you recently that I am advocating for our school district to develop a model for inclusive education that will help Oliver, and other students in our community, to thrive both in and out of the classroom. Sending my boy off to school each day, knowing that things are not best-case scenario, has left me feeling powerless. And as a mother, that is the last thing you want to feel. Advocating is something I can do. And so it is what I do. That is, it's what I do when I'm not worrying (which is a real strength of mine). I'll be honest with you: this year has been hard on me, on our family, and most especially on Oliver, who is the real hero of this story. He is the hero because no matter how difficult his days are at school, he is always ready to go the next day and try again. 

I have wondered why my boy is so willing to keep trying when I feel certain I would give up if the choice were mine. During the worst of it this winter, I found myself asking him daily if a return to homeschooling would be a better option. I couldn't understand what he was getting out of going to school and he could never really articulate an answer that made much sense -- just that he wanted to go. Partly I chalked it up to his nature: he comes by his stubbornness honestly. But also to his gentle, accepting way (a gift from the other, more relaxed half of his DNA). But I'm also reminded of something I learned, so many years ago, working with refugees in Thailand. I spent my off hours interviewing my students who would soon be resettled in the United States. I was teaching cultural orientation to the elderly, 55 and over, which makes me laugh for several reasons now, thankyouverymuch. They were primarily Hmong, most of them didn't read or write, they were used to cooking over a fire and had a rich tradition of hunting and gathering. They smiled and laughed. A lot. (Frequently at me). 

It was all fun and games till someone pulled out a camera -- then
the joke was on the lone, smiling American.
Even then, (my calendar says 20 some years ago) I was interested in understanding the stories we tell ourselves. How these stories influence who we are and who we will become, how we knit together our understanding of where our feet touch the earth right now, in this moment, with our expectations for where those same feet will carry us down some yellow brick road of the magical future.The marriage between the real and the ideal. And those refugees who were kind enough to share their stories and their dreams with me? They knew a lot about what is real. They knew about war and fear, frustration and boredom. They knew about what it was like to be caught in a system where you can't stay and you can't go back. And I think they also knew how difficult life in this far away country was going to be. Maybe they knew about the very high rates of depression and suicide of those who went before them. Surely they knew that an entirely new way of life awaited them. A life where chicken parts are sold wrapped in sanitized plastic wrappers so you can't even smell it or rely on your own senses to know what is what!  And yet, despite the odds being so firmly stacked against them, their stories always made room for the chance at a happy ending.They found a way to balance their very real struggles and fears with the only thing they really had . ... Hope. This was one of the great surprises in my life -- that even amidst the most difficult circumstances, there was joy, there was life and there was Hope.

For obvious reasons, this isn't much of an analogy. But years ago, when I was in the camps as a teacher, I quickly (quickly) found that most of the lessons would be mine to learn. I've never been a very good student, often taking years to learn basic truths, so maybe it isn't such a surprise to find that Oliver is now teaching me a very similar lesson and that it's one that I still have to learn. 

Sometimes in this life, you can't go back, and staying where you are won't work. The only choice that makes any sense at all is moving forward, holding tightly to hope, and telling your story in a way that leaves room for a happy ending.

No comments:

Post a Comment