I sit in the corner of the classroom and just watch for awhile, engraving each tiny moment into my mind.
One of the girls, 13 years old, moves her mouth around in the funniest shapes as she tries to sound out the letters of the basic word in front of her. It’s slow and it sounds a little off. But she’s doing it…she’s reading!
One of the boys, 9 years old, focuses so hard to trace the lines of his name onto the paper over and over again. Suddenly, he throws his pencil down frustrated and starts banging his head on the table- I assume he’s done for the day. But really, his hand just hurts because he’s not used to holding a pencil. So I watch and smile, as one of our teachers grabs his hand and massages it gently so he can continue learning the letters of his name.
One of the older boys sits quietly at the table, straining his brain for the words to answer his essay question- “Inig daku nimo, unsa man imong gusto mahimo?”. When you grow up, what do you want to be? I’m excited to read his answer. I want to be a doctor, he writes. In the midst of a million spelling mistakes and imperfect grammar, are the big dreams of a street kid who knows he can be something incredible one day.
The oldest boy, 17 years old so near and dear to my heart, sits at the table in front soaking in every word the teacher says. He hasn’t been to school since grade 1 but he is determined to change his life. I listen as he fights to sound out each word. Some of the other kids laugh at him but he doesn’t even care. When he finally gets the answer right, he smiles from ear to ear at his accomplishment. He’s so proud of himself…and he should be.
These are the moments.
It’s easy sometimes for me to get blinded by all the obstacles we face- the addictions to rubgy, the freedom of the streets, the challenge of getting street kids to follow a schedule, problems with the neighbors, the full blown rages that come when they’re high. But the potential for greatness is there. It’s why I moved here. It’s the dream of my heart- to see these kids find Hope. I long for them to know and believe that more is possible in their lives.
We had visitors come to the center the other day and one of kids introduced himself like this- Hi, I’m ________ and I’m a rugby boy. Oh my heart. But that’s NOT who he is and it doesn’t have to define him!
One day he will introduce himself again and it will be different. He will know his true identity, found in the God who loves him and created him special. He will know his dreams of being a doctor or a policeman or a jeepney driver are possible.
He won’t be a rugby boy forever…