Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Learning 101

The other day while I was administering an exam to the 8th grade Basico class, I started reflecting on my own experiences as a student. Attending a Jesuit University, my professors would often share the wise words of Saint Ignatius: “Go forth and set the world on fire.” My response? “Well, I’m trying to set this world on fire, but I feel like I’m just burning down the house.”

Nick and I at Sister Pats Camp 2007
It took four years of college and three years of post-graduate experiences for me to figure out what my calling actually was. After deciding to apply to graduate school for Social Work, I carefully started to put together the infamous “Personal Statement.” When I finally thought I had perfected it, I called my good friend and best critic, Nick, to get his opinion. “Yeah, it’s really, really good, but remember it’s not an autobiography. Think why you want to go to grad school and learn about this stuff. You’re so close! You just have to sit down and start over.”

Start over? Is this some kind of cruel joke?

A high school English teacher once told me “writing is re-writing.” I’ve come to realize that at the end of the day, anything we are good at takes hard work and patience. About 20 hours and lots of coffee later, I stared into the bright light of my computer screen and saw my honest thoughts. Like I wrote in my essay, "when compelled to work hard for something you care about, knowledge is easily absorbed, whether from literature, dialogue, people, or moments. Learning can be intentional or subconscious, but when we bridge our education with our true interests, we reach the ultimate fulfillment."

While I looked around at the quiet, focused, Basico classroom, I considered the educational goals of these students. Here I am in Guatemala, living out my hopes and dreams, but what I really want to do is help them find theirs. Many of these kids have not had the chance to recognize their full potential and what they are truly able to accomplish. I know myself and every other volunteer who comes through this country looks in the faces of these individuals and sees this blinding beauty that we wish we could shine over all of Guatemala. Unfortunately, that’s not up to us. But what we can do is share our knowledge and resources to guide them towards continual education and learning.

The relationships I have built during my time in Guatemala have showed me that when placed in a position to give, I gain a greater understanding about myself and my values. But more importantly, I gain the understanding of how much I have to learn from those around me. Author and activist Shane Claiborne shares,
Just as “believers” are a dime a dozen in the church, so are "activists" in social justice circles nowadays. But lovers are hard to come by. And I think that's what our world is desperately in need of--lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of the people behind the issues they are concerned about.
That being said, I’m hopeful we are on our way to being really great lovers.


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