Last week, I taught a lesson to my classes about American Dances… Needless to say, they got a bit rambunctious, but had a lot of fun. In one of the later classes on that day, one of the girls from my Student Mentoring class seemed a little blue. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but a midst the laughter of her classmates, her eyes remained fixated downward on the imaginary manifestation of her problem in front of her. I asked her what was wrong, but she brushed me off and said it was nothing. I persisted and asked her to stay after class for a moment so we could talk about it. Just one week before she had seemed quite happy.
After class, she was no where to be found, and I was a bit disheartened. So I moved on with business as usual and continued with my next class, which was a one-on-one session with one of the Non-English teachers at my school, Grace (her English name). As soon as she sat down, I could tell there was something wrong. So instead of talking about our lesson, I pushed the papers aside and said, “Today, let us just talk.” She went on to tell me that there was a problem with one of her students. “When my student have problem… my problem.” I could see the pain in her eyes. So I asked her to tell me about the student and she said, “Today, I ask her what wrong. She say… ‘Nothing. I’m fine. Today I realize I want to become artist.’ ” She knew that the student was avoiding her. Then it dawned on me, “Wait, is her English very very good. One of the best?” “Yes! That’s her!” It seems our empathies had converged.
As the bell rang I asked Grace if she could ask the girl to come speak with me during the next period. I felt like she may feel comfortable with me since she was in my mentoring class (we play games and talk about their future once a week). She agreed and five minutes later I was sitting with my student, asking her what was wrong. A couple minutes of silence and hmmm’s eventually gave way for the greater story to unfold. Her parents had recently split, and her father had killed himself. As I’m sure any child anywhere in the world would, she felt like this was her fault. I replied to her by assuring her that it wasn’t her fault.
She was afraid to tell her teachers, her friends, and her counselor because she thought they would judge her. In Korean culture it is common to speak your judgements about others very frankly. So why wouldn’t she be scared? But as fate would have it, I did not fit into that category, and the fact that I was an outcast gave her the comfort to open up. We talked about it for the rest of the class period, and came to the conclusion that the split was a result of his decisions in the past and that his final decision was his as well.
THE TAKEAWAY: She came into my office after school that day and said thank you with the slightest sparkle in her eye. Maybe it was a tear, maybe it was the freedom from her pain. But the misty sparkle that matched it in mine was one of joy. Joy that I was lucky enough to be in the right place, at the right time, for the right person. Had things gone any differently that day, she may very well have lived with that pain for a long time. Being there for someone does have a lot to do with the kind of person we are, but it has even more to do with timing. If we want to truly be there for someone, let’s not focus on what we are going to say. Rather, let’s focus on recognizing the times when those around us are in need. The rest is up to the Universe.