Monday, March 5, 2012

A letter to my school teachers

I apologize for my occasional classroom disruptions, for leaving stray fragments of paper around my desks, and for eating Poptarts when I was supposed to be taking notes, but I am slightly older now, maybe a little wiser, and have a short story I would like to share with you:

At the time of this writing I am sitting on the porch of a mission house in Ghana, Africa listening to the drummers in the distance and am trying to remember the last time I had running water and electricity both at the same time—it takes but a moment to realize that was about 20 days ago (when I stepped off American soil).  It is here, in Winneba, Ghana that I understand what those “bare necessities” are that I once sung about, and here that I am reminded of the beauty of a simple gesture.

“Obone” is the title the Ghanaians have graciously given to anyone with light skin—meaning “white man” or “red skin” (it’s blazing hot here!)  Everyday, as I walk out of my room on the top floor of the building where I am living, I am heralded with the screaming of maybe 10 dancing and waving children who are shouting, “Obone!  Obone!”  Normally I smile and wave back, but the favorite is always when I make a paper airplane (yes, that really cool one I learned how to make while sitting in the back of your class) and send it soaring the thirty feet down towards them where it finally lands close enough for them to get it and play.  You would think it was Christmas the way they look up at me and smile.

Yesterday, I took a moment out of my day to walk over to the mothers of the children with a pad of paper.  I was pleasantly welcomed but could tell from their expressions that this was no ordinary occurrence.  They fetched a stool for me and asked me to sit, so I did.  I ripped out a sheet of paper and flipped the pad on its back to use it as a small tabletop.  What started with a circle of 5 or so around me ended up being a small crowd of more than I could count, but I continued to sit there quietly folding my origami creation in front of them.  While jokes were passed back and forth, they sat patiently waiting to see what in the world I was doing.  I unfolded a paper crane and handed it to one woman’s tiny child and they all burst into applause, amazed that a sheet of paper could be turned into an animal.  I smiled back at them and walked home knowing that I had just made at least 20 new friends, with not a single word being spoken.

Having graduated with a 4 year college degree, I realize the importance of knowing how to write a grammatically correct sentence, but, having had the opportunity to experience a world beyond my own means, I am aware now more than ever that supported academic materials without application are simply that, words on a pages.  Like that page I once sat in your classroom, with all potential of being shaped into and used for something.   Some of us get squished into paper balls like those I should not have hurled across your classroom, and while all are uniquely shaped, some standout and become something truly amazing, like a paper crane, and want to fly, like those airplanes did.

So I want to thank you for every time you turned your back to the class or walked down the hall for a short, unexpected appointment, for it is in those moments as well that I sat, being taught by a friend how to make an airplane that would impact the world around me far differently than could be done in any classroom.  So the next time you pick up a paper frog off the floor, before you crunch someone’s creative spirit by putting them in detention, remember this:  we are all called and unique in purpose, it sometimes may just take creativity in your approach to encourage us to fulfill it.

Joshua Gale

A couple more (unedited) photos for the non-readers to look at...

Awesome kids.

This about sums it up, haha.

No comments:

Post a Comment