One thing, among many, that the people of Delhi do well is engage and welcome those who are not locals into their communities with patience and open arms. The nature of the culture is warm and hospitable. In this past week, time and time again I have experienced the generosity and compassion of those who are a part of this community. The first time we went to our work placement at the Vidya School, I was feeling quite uneasy and a bit nervous. I did not know what to expect or what would be expected of me, but as soon as I walked through the front doors, all of the feelings of uneasiness disappeared. The children that I had the pleasure of passing on the way to the office greeted me with either an excited “hello, ma’am!” or a smiley hi-five. In addition to the children’s warm greetings, the teachers and administrative staff welcomed us cheerfully. The children, faculty, and staff of the Vidya School have no idea of how each of their individual smiles impacted me and put me at ease on that day.
My warm welcome into the communities of people in Delhi and the Vidya School led me to reflect on how I can be more intentional about loving and serving this community well. I realized that too often I underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word, or a listening ear. The children of the Vidya School are very good listeners, and this may be due to the fact that they anticipate that I will be doing all of the talking. However, they seem pleasantly surprised at coming to the realization that I want to know about their lives, not just to tell them about my own.
“What I have come to realize through this first week of interacting with the students is that impact and encouragement and inspiration often come not from the moments spent in the classroom, but the moments spent outside of the classroom.”
During lunch period on this past Thursday, one of the young ladies in my class and I had a conversation about her family. She told me her own name, the name of her sister, and the names of her parents. She also shared with me the fact that her sister’s birthday was on Friday. I encouraged her to share as much or as little as she wanted about her life. On Friday, I found this young lady and told her to tell her sister that I said happy birthday. The way that her eyes lit up showed me that the moment-to-moment situations are often times the ones that have the most opportunity to produce impact. It also showed me that impact is not what we should pursue. If our aim is to teach, to serve, to learn, and to let the children know that we sincerely care, then perhaps impact will come. Our pursuit should be the spreading of knowledge and the deepening of relationships.
What I have come to realize through this first week of interacting with the students is that impact and encouragement and inspiration often come not from the moments spent in the classroom, but the moments spent outside of the classroom. While the information itself is important, of course, the relationships that we develop with the students outside of the classroom contribute to and often enhance the way that we relate to them inside of the classroom.
Listening with the intent to understand their lives and perspectives, instead of listening with the intent to respond has made a world of difference in the quality of the relationships that I have made with the children in the short time that I have been at Vidya. Listening is simple, but it requires us to be intentional because it requires us to be present. The brief, passing conversations that can slip by us if we are not paying attention seem to be the ones that can make a world’s difference if we allow them to.
Listening well, being present, and finding ways to understand and relate to the children at the Vidya School have been major ways in which I have begun to know and understand the lives and perspectives of the children that I have had the privilege of coming in contact with.