Thursday, October 18, 2012

It is so good to be

I used concepts that can be encapsulated in numbers: four seasons (fall, winter, spring, summer), the elements (earth, wind, fire, water) as writing prompts. Starting from the broad and drilling down helps in narrowing down to yourself. After all, a journal is a safe, exclusive place where the only person important is you.

"How do you spell, Fall?"



I wondered if she had wandered into this class by mistake and hoped she was not uncomfortable there. I even wondered if English was a language she was comfortable with. But this is not a class about learning as such, there is no goal in mind, just a space to be, to think, to write, to relax and get in touch with yourself. So I say nothing. Her voice was soft at first, so low that I could barely make out a single word...even though I sat within touching distance. Each time she asked me to spell something out she winced, seemed to curl up inside.

Her first sentence tended to be the same, "Summer is good." "The sense of sight is so good."

Then came the final focus on you exercise. I asked them to write a truth about themselves they did not mind sharing with others. The take-home would be to write a truth that is exclusively theirs, that no one would ever see.

"I am so happy," she said, "to be sitting in this classroom, to write and to be heard."

She was a little girl when her parents died. Some people took her in but they could not afford to feed *and* educate her. She never learned to read and write. Then, after a lot of struggle, and living on her own from her teens, she arrived in the U.S. Somehow she learned to read and write...but not well."

"I can't spell," she said mournfully, "I don't know the right way to write."

Her voice, still soft, was audible at last.

"I am 57 years old," she said, "and I am embarrassed but today I am happy, so happy to be here. It is so good."

I didn't know when I first saw this quiet, shrinking woman walk in that she had magical powers. She could do more to reach a deep, sacred place, and unlock goodness than I ever could with all my babbling about how wonderful writing is. The prickly, disabled woman in the corner who declared that she never told anything to anyone because people used it to hurt her unfroze, just like that.

"I don't really know you" she said to the quiet one, "but you are the only person who always offer to help me with my walker and you don't stare at me. Do you know how many people just stare and they never talk to me? I am taking my GED and I am older than you. I would be honored to study with you."

She talked also about her mother throwing her out when she was 13, with a few rolls of pennies and a few clothes in a bag.

Time was up and we all looked at each other and smiled. It's a cliche to say that I learned more than I taught but it's true. Each time in this little community of homeless, battered and destitute women I find humbling truths that bring me to my knees.

It is so good to be here, in this basement, where the light filters in softly, it is good to be here with all of you.


PKR said...

This is a beautiful post, Jawahara, and thank you. Not for making me cry so early in the morning, but for sharing this. It sounds like you are creating a very safe space for your participants, so well done!

Unknown said...

I need to go redo my mascara. How do you mangage not to bawl in front of your class? Seems like all of you -- students and teacher -- are getting so much more out of this journaling class than you anticipated.

C. said...

Wow Jawahara such a powerful post. We need to chat so I can better understand what you are doing. One thing I know you ARE doing though is making one heck of a difference to a few lost souls.

DL NELSON said...

Wonderful post for a wonderful moment.

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