About two weeks ago I got a message on my answering machine; it was rushed and out of breath and full of urgency. The man leaving the message was Scott Wade, a teacher at the ESL Newcomer Academy. Scott had a request from a student, Katheryn from El Salvador, who wanted a guitar. Luckily someone had emailed me about donating their guitar the same day!
After getting it re-strung and in a new case I brought it to Scott’s class. He had an elaborate plan for me to leave the classroom suddenly but then come back with the guitar for Katheryn. As I re-entered the classroom with the guitar Katheryn began to cry and I could barely hold it together. We embraced and she promised to begin learning the guitar as soon as she got home.
This is enough of a heart warming story, but the true inspiration for me was sitting in on Scott’s class. This wasn’t any class, it’s a club called “The Explorers”, and each of the 25 students sitting there had written an essay about how they wanted to make a difference in the world. They were there to learn about giving back, to each other and their community. They had been in the United States less than a year and they were already planning ways they could give.
They read this quote by the Dalai Lama to begin class: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” The class immediately worked to translate these words into action. Not only did Katheryn get a new guitar, but students also presented eleven new pairs of shoes to another classmate who had eleven siblings at home. This student’s father was finally on his way to the airport when the travel ban was issued by the Trump administration, and he was forced to return to the refugee camp. We can all learn from the example of these young members of our community and do our best to give back and help others in the little ways that we are able.