Actively Loving My Neighbors

We sat around two tables, ten women, a teacher, and me. Five women wore a hijab or some sort of covering. Four women were from Mexico. Two women relied on their friends for translation. We sat in a mobile classroom with a broken air conditioner, though during the morning class the heat wasn’t all that noticeable. We played a few name games, I helped a woman fill out a registration form, and after the coffee break we practiced leaving a voice message to let the teacher know if there was an absence or tardy.

school-375976_960_720Earlier this year, after the travel ban was enacted, I looked for ways to tangibly show my immigrant neighbors that they were welcome and a necessary part of our community. I reached out to a few different organizations but they were flooded with volunteers and yet had a lack of refugees who needed help. An acquaintance advised me to wait – that school would provide a more organic opportunity to help.

When I saw the poster at the Welcome Open House for Family Literacy, I immediately put my name down as a tutor. As a teacher, it was so hard to watch parents whose primary language wasn’t English try to decipher homework, forms, and school expectations. I knew that helping in the classroom was important, but if I could help parents help in their kids classrooms, that seemed exponentially more important.

Part of this program is English acquisition – practicing daily conversations and situations. Part of it is school specific – filling out forms, doing homework, understanding the new math curriculum. Part of it is teaching the parents how to volunteer in the classroom and give back to the school. It’s teaching them the cultural expectations and norms of American public education.

Our little class has just started meeting and already I’m excited for this year ahead. I look forward to the opportunity to get to know these other moms, not as student-teacher but as fellow moms at the school. I’m here to help with English but my goal is also to listen to their stories and to simply walk alongside them as we all navigate this world of elementary school together.

It’s such a small thing, this once a week commitment but it has already changed the way I read the news and world events. While I’m not out protesting or calling my representative’s office, and while we don’t have political signs in our front yard, I am making a political statement of welcome with my presence. I am actively loving my neighbor and our little circle of women gives me hope.

What are small ways you respond to world events? How do you actively love your neighbors?

Beginning in the Middle

School started on Monday. Even though we’re still in August and September has the potential to be hot, the past week has been beautiful – low 80’s, nights into the 50’s. Windows open; Option of wearing jeans; Glimpses of autumn coming.

unnamed-1Our first day was a bit crazy. Lunches needed to be packed. I had to go to work. We started our Whole30 experiment. But in the midst of that morning frenzy, there was underlying excitement. New beginnings! New shoes! New year!

I just read in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, The Story of the Year that the sparrows think humans have it wrong: The new year should be in spring, not in the middle of winter. Every other plant and animal on this planet recognize that spring means new beginnings, not January.

And yet, autumn holds that same promise of fresh starts. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always operated on the school calendar: as a student, as a teacher, and even as a mom. And now with my own student, the next 20 years will be on this cycle: Beginnings at the end of summer.

While I agree with Andersen’s swallows, that spring makes the most sense, I like having a fresh start at the end of August. The year is over half finished. Perhaps the goals of January are still holding strong, but maybe not. Perhaps our hopes for the perfect summer were accomplished, but maybe not. Having a fresh start in this season – of long days getting shorter and weather that keeps me on my toes – is exactly when I need it. Right in the middle, right when it doesn’t make sense.

I’m learning that starting things on the first, whether it’s of the year or of the month can create more opportunity for failure. I attach a number to a project rather than looking at the project itself. I’m learning to start year-long tasks on March 19 rather than January 1. Who can remember March 19?!

So, as we are at the height of this first week of school, my love for fresh starts in the middle of the year is rekindled and I’m looking forward to this new season.

What type of calendar do you operate on? Do you still view August/September as a season of beginnings?