Saturday, March 17, 2012
Ruth y yo
So the second story from the DR is about Ruth. For the past year, I've been hearing the kids at Hill Country talk about "their kid" in the DR. I didn't understand exactly how it worked out that each kid from HCCSA seemed to have their own individual DR kid, and I didn't really go to the DR expecting to- as the students say- "find a kid." But "find a kid" I did- well, more accurately, she found me.
Monday was our first teaching day at the Makarios school, and I was assigned to the same group that Sierra was in because she, like Azi, was instrumental in getting me to the DR in the first place. Each HCCSA student had prepared a lesson that included a Bible story and a craft based on the Bible story. Since I was not going to teach a lesson, I figured I would just hang back and watch our kiddos do their thing en Espanol.
Days at Makarios start with singing. The PreK classes sing outside in a gazebo-like structure called the "Ranchito." PreK3 stands in one line, PreK4 in another, and they sing at the top of their lungs while their teachers and teacher's aides clap and shake tambourines. The first time I heard the singing, I couldn't sing along because I was choked up about it- I couldn't understand all of the words they were singing, but I could catch words like "El Senor" - Lord, "Palabra de Dios"- Word of God and "Verdad"- Truth, and I knew they were singing praises to God and that just got to me.
I think it was when we were walking from the Ranchito into the PreK3 classroom that Ruth's little hand first grabbed mine- I have no idea why. The Mak kids love us "Gringos" but why she picked me, I do not really know. God knows.
That day we spent in the PreK3 class, I got to see Ruth interact with her classmates. I sat on the floor beside her while she sat in her tiny plastic chair. I helped her glue pieces of colored paper onto a plastic plate to make a "rainbow" based on the story of Noah's ark, and I told her, in my little bit of Spanish, that I could only speak a little bit of Spanish. I tried saying more things and asking more questions, and though it wasn't pretty, Ruth seemed to understand me.
At recess time, I went out and played. It wasn't too long before Ruth asked me for a "caballito"- a piggyback ride, and certainly a Mak school favorite. So I ran around in the heat while Ruth squealed with delight on my shoulders or my back and commanded me to "Corre!" - run!
For the next three days, whenever I was at the Mak school, I hung out with Ruth every chance I got. I would ride her on my back, push her on the swing, and, as much as I could, I would talk to her. I learned that Ruth's best friend was a little girl names Darlin Frid, that she loves to sing, and that she is incredibly smart, and fairly bossy. The most amazing thing to me about Ruth was that the whole time- she could understand me. I still don't really get how that was possible. But I guess that the whole time, I could understand her too. Other kids would come up to me and I couldn't pick up a word they were saying. My only response to them was "No entiendo"- I don't understand. But I very rarely had to say those words to Ruth. The funniest thing of all was when another kid would come up to me and ask a question, and I would hear Ruth telling them that I could only speak a little bit of Spanish. She also would, in a really sweet and helpful way- correct my Spanish from time to time. Like once when we were on the rope swing, I was trying to say which person was at the end of the line for the swing and I used the word "ultimo" for the end of the line and Ruth looked at me and said, "Fin. Es el fin." So I quickly recovered, and called the end of the line "el fin."
When Wednesday came, I was not looking forward to saying good-bye to Ruth. Many of our seniors, who have had relationships with their kiddos for three years now, were teary-eyed from the beginning of the day. But I don't cry easily, and I'd only spent three days- not three years- knowing Ruth, so I in no way anticipated water works.
Ruth came to school Wednesday with these big blue ribbons in her hair- sort of like she looks in the picture above. And I talked to her about how pretty her ribbons were and we played at recess, as per usual. But when it came time for our team to go, people started crying, and the kiddos started getting wary. When Azi sat down in the Ranchito and started crying because he had to say good-bye to one of his kiddos, I explained to Ruth that we were leaving tomorrow and that Azi was "triste"- sad. Ruth picked up on this really quickly, and I could tell she wasn't quite as happy-go-lucky as she had previously been.
Finally, the time came for our group to leave. I got Senora Majcher to come over and explain in better Spanish than I could muster that I had to leave, but that I would hopefully be able to come back one day. Ruth gave me a big, big hug and I carried her back to her classroom. When I put her down, she said, "Te quiero"- I love you- and I said it back. Then I walked out to the bus- still no tears.
But the rest of my team was slow in coming out to the bus. Someone asked where everyone was, so I went back around the corner of the school, and looked in the yard for the rest of my team. As soon as I turned the corner, I saw a practically empty courtyard- empty but for one little girl with blue ribbons in her hair. She literally ran and jumped in my arms, tears falling down her little face. I squeezed her really tight and heard her sweet little voice say in my ear, "Estoy triste"- I am sad. And I said, "yo tambien." - me too. And then there were tears.
That afternoon was the afternoon that Azi and I played in the rain in Chichigua, and on the bus ride home from the village, I thought/prayed about how much I want to improve my Spanish so that I can develop relationships with little people like Ruth. How much I wanted to be able to find out more about her life- who she was, who she wanted to become! But I hadn't been able to. I felt as frustrated at that point as I had the entire trip. I just wanted more of something- relationship, I guess, but I knew I hadn't had enough, and I was "triste" about that.
When we got back to the Mak house, everyone started unwinding and getting ready for dinner. I was upstairs chatting with a group of students, when someone said that Tito- another one of my AP Bio students- needed to talk to me. I thought, "What does Tito want?" but went down to find him. Tito had worked in the Prek3 class Wednesday morning, and had met Ruth. And that afternoon, he and some of the other HCCSA guys were working diligently to pave- yes, pave- the driveway at the Mak house. So when a little girl with blue ribbons in her hair showed up at the gate, he knew who she was, and found out who she was looking for. "Ruth is here," he said, "She came to see you."
I couldn't get around to the gate fast enough. Sure enough, there was my Makarios kid- blue ribbons and a smile. It turned out that she actually lived just up the street from the Makarios house, and attended the public school down the street in the afternoons. (Dominican schools have morning classes and afternoon classes. Ruth goes to Makarios in the morning and public school in the afternoon.) A few students and I walked with Ruth and her cousin, who had accompanied her on her bold visit to the Mak house down to the corner store, where I bought them Cokes. We enjoyed one last conversation, and I got to show her pictures of Gatsby and Daisy and Andy on my phone- something that I had been wanting to do but hadn't gotten around to yet. And just as we were saying good-bye again- this time with smiles- a lovely Dominican woman appeared in the driveway. And in a conversation that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit- I conversed with this woman- who turned out to be Ruth's mom- in fluent Spanish. She told me that Ruth had come home after school and boo-hood because her American friend was leaving. I told her that Ruth was precious and I had enjoyed meeting her and working at the school. And, again, we just understood everything that needed to be understood at that moment. She smiled, and I smiled and no one was "triste" anymore.
When I walked back toward the house, I thanked God, and I was trembling, not crying. I was overwhelmed by the power of God. The very thing that I had been craving- more relationship- the ability to communicate, to find out more about who Ruth is, what her life is like- not thirty minutes before, God had just graciously given to me. I'm not sure what all of this means. But I know that the incredible tenderness of God's heart appeared at the front gate of the Mak house wearing blue ribbons on Wednesday afternoon.
This morning, I've been re-reading Ephesians 1, and I've been struck by the word, "adopted." Ruth is not an orphan, and I'm so thankful that I can picture her mom's pretty face in my mind as I write this. But I want her to be adopted into the same family that I was adopted into 10 years ago. I want her to be my sister in Christ, and I'm so thankful that I know that as long as Ruth is going to Makarios, she's going to hear and sing and rejoice in the Verdad, and I will be asking that God will open the eyes of her heart so that she will know Him and we will not have to say good-bye to each other one day. And, from that point on, no one will ever again be triste.