Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Drawing Beggars and Crayon Thieves

Today, we went to Los Bordos to teach school, and Lindsay had me go in with the littlest ones. There are four different classes at our little school there: 3 and under, 4-6, 7-13, and adults. Dona Elsa takes the women into the building next to the school to teach the various subjects, and today, we had the 7-13 year olds that Lindsay teaches outside. The youngest two groups sat around 2 tables inside the school.

I thought that having the little ones would be easy, because Lindsay implied that the hardest part of my job would be making sure nobody tried to steal the crayons. I quickly learned that that was not the hardest part of my job. As far as problems went, stopping the crayon thieves was actually the easiest one to solve.

All the little ones do is color these big pictures from Blue's Clues. But most of these kids don't have crayons and such at home, so even the older kids wanted to join in and color the pictures. I had to tell them no, because there wasn't enough for everybody, and they had their own classes to focus on.

As much sibling love as there usually is there, it was sad to see this lacking. There was one girl who claimed to be 8 but looked older (she also tried to tell me she was 5 when she first talked to me, so I wasn't very inclined to believe her the second time around) who had a little brother, who was probably 5 or 6. When I turned her down because she was big, she had her little brother ask, and I went ahead and gave him a drawing and let him take some crayons. When I looked over at the table they were at (because the little kid table was full), I saw that they boy was standing there looking sad while his older sister leaned over the table coloring the drawing that was meant for him.

When the older kids started finishing up the test they were taking, they started coming in and asking for drawings. Even the slightly older group started asking, and they had gotten to glue balls of tissue paper into the shape of the letter A, which was probably a new experience for them, and was definitely more grown-up than the coloring that the littlest ones did. I turned child after child down, and most of them would give up after a couple of "no"s.

But there was one little girl, whose name I don't know, who was desperate.She was in the oldest group, but I'm guessing she's around 7. She kept asking me for a drawing, telling me it was for her sister. After telling her her sister wasn't here several times in Spanish, I gave up trying to be rational with her. As she continued to (more and more loudly) demand a drawing, I started telling her why she couldn't have one in English. At one point, as she said "hermana" over and over, I repeated it back to her, saying "I can say it too: hermana!" The girl who had taken her brother's drawing came over, too, and they both were talking to me. She told the smaller girl that I didn't understand Spanish and only talked in English.

The small girl didn't give up, though, and went outside, then came back in telling me someone had said she could have one. Maybe someone did, but not someone in charge. Eventually, we got in the car and left, and she didn't get a drawing.

There were a couple of boys that came in that wanted to draw, too, or just steal crayons. One of them sat at the table for a bit coloring with another little boy, then was asking me for more crayons. I noticed immediately that he was sitting strangely in the seat, and I knew that there had been at least 4 crayons on the table near him just seconds earlier. When I asked him why he didn't have crayons, his impish smile and a little girl confirmed that he did indeed have several crayons. All four, to be exact, tucked in between his legs. I took them all forcibly from him, except for a purple one, which he tossed back into the bag anyway.

Later, him and his friend were in the corner eating oranges near a little boy who I had given a drawing and 6 crayons to. When I went to collect the crayons from the boy that was done, I got 5 back, and my little theiving friend had his arms clenched at his side, quite unnaturally. I put out my hand to receive the crayon, and his guilty smile gave him away again. I tickled him, and he eventually revealed where he had the red crayon hidden - under his arm, as I suspected.

As I gathered all the crayons and started stacking chairs because it was time to go, he said goodbye and walked out the door as I was returning from putting chair away. He had, beneath his orange, a crayon. Why he thought he could hide it there, I don't know, but this time when I held out my hand, he walked away quickly. I caught him by the arm, and as he wiggled, the crayon fell, and he ran off as I calmly bent down to pick it up. I'm not sure why he thought he could get away with it a third time.

As I was telling the small girl, and several others that they could not have a drawing, even for their "sister," part of me felt guilty for not giving them what they wanted. After all, this little girl comes from this poor villiage and they can't afford coloring pages and crayons, so it's wrong to withhold something like that from her.

But then I thought some more about it, and realized that it would have been wrong to give in. By her angry reaction to my "no"s, I'm guessing that she usually gets exactly what she wants, which means that she has little or no discipline at home. A lack of discipline is a lack of love. To give in and let her continue to think that she can get what she wants when she gets angry and yells is only going to further cripple her. Maybe I didn't teach her respect or anything like that, and she probably doesn't see my act of refusal as being loving, but I hope that eventually, she'll realize that she's worth something, and not because some richer people came and gave her stuff, but because God loves her and created her to do great things in His name.

Don't get me wrong, here. It's good to go into a villiage that's suffering economically and give them gifts for their children that they couldn't give them themselves. It's good that we're going in and spending time and money on teaching them reading and writing, and english. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. If we give them everything they need all the time, they'll become dependent on our goodwill and won't be able to do anything for themselves.

Imagine a child who grows up never having to make their own food, or wash their own clothes, or wake themselves up to get ready in the morning. If that continues until the child goes off to college, they're going to have an EXTREMELY hard time adjusting and being able to take care of themself.

It's the same way with these villiages. If we come in and provide everything, they'll just sit around waiting for the next thing to come, and won't do anything for themselves. They begin to believe that they are good for nothing because they aren't providing for themselves, and the mindset of dependency and worthlessness will continue to cycle.

I know that's not what we're causing with them, and I don't think giving the girl a drawing or letting the boy steal a crayon just so he could have one would have caused them to spin out of control into dependency and worthlessness, but it's a cycle that's been going for generations, and if that's one way to possibly start to break through and be able to show them that they can do things for themself and that there's more to life than waiting around for the people who have more than you to come and give you drawings and crayons, then I'm going to have to keep telling them "no."

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