I found myself day dreaming about the child I would meet tonight at tutoring. What would their life be like? What would be their favorite subject? Please like writing, I thought. Please don't have math homework, I prayed. Unless, the math invovled counting by using skittles or M&M's. Then, I am on board. I'm just not a math person, but I smiled thinking about how the child would probably be teaching me by the end of the night.
And she did.
When I first walked into the shelter, I saw two children laying on the floor. I didn't see the dad at first because all my attention went to the sad look in little girls' eyes. I think they were trying to into the shelter that night.
I smiled at her, but she didn't smile back. I understand why she didn't smile back- but I will honestly never truly understand because I haven't lived through what she is right now. And she is only four years old.
I said a silent prayer as I walked by, closing my eyes and sending them all my love, courage and hope.
I was one of the first tutors in the classroom. I quickly bonded with the other tutors, most of them were women in their 30s and 40s. A young teenage girl walked in next, and then a young boy with his mother, who I met at the training session. He was so excited to be there, so ready to help another kid out. It almost brought tears to my eyes. Just looking at his bright smile made me happy. He truly couldn't wait to start working with the children. He will do great things in life; he is only 11, but I am positive he will make a big difference in this world.
I saw a big group of young girls walk in. That's when I saw her. She was beautiful. She had on bright pink boots and bright yellow t-shirt. She was happy to be there and rushed right up to the program coordinator.
The coordinator looked at me and paired me up with Rhianna the moment she walked in the room. (I am changing her name for her privacy).
She leaned down and whispered in Rhianna's ear, "Go show her how smart you are!"
The young girl gave me a shy smile and I said, "Hello, Rhianna. My name is Ashley. How are you?"
"Hi," she said and gave me a small wave.
She grabbed her folder and we walked into the cafeteria together.
"What did you do at school today?" I asked.
"I learned about Martin Luther King Jr.," she said.
"Oh yeah, what did you learn?" I asked.
"Well, his birthday is coming up," she said. "And I also learned about Rosa Parks."
"What did you learn about Rosa?" I asked her.
"Well, she was on a bus. And all the white people made her move to the back of the bus. Because there was some kind of law about that."
"Well, did she move to back?" I asked.
"Nope- she didn't!" she said.
"Well that is a good lesson in life, Rhianna," I said. "You have to stand up for yourself. I hope you always do."
She smiled and nodded back at me.
"What is your favorite subject?" I asked her.
"Reading!" She said and got excited.
"I love to read! We can read some of your book together later on tonight," I said.
And that was the beginning. She loved to read and so did I. She loved to write and so did I. And she didn't have math homework. What a perfect first night for me. Even better, she was excited to be there and learn together.
We did her homework, which took us all of five minutes because she is so smart.
Then, we did reading together. I read two pages and then she read two pages. She was an excellent reader. She jumped right in where she left off.
And one time, I overlooked a word. And she looked at me and said, "Any- you missed the word any!"
"You are right!" I said. "I did miss that word. Look at you, catching my mistakes and teaching me. Good job!" I said.
Then we played educational trivia. She literally asked me 4 math questions in a row. Seriously.
"You know, I am really not good at math," I said. "I'll bet you are better than me. So take it easy on me with these math questions."
We smiled. But I wasn't kidding- no more math questions or I'll be getting tutored.
Toward the end of our session together, we did another reading and writing exercise. She was suposed to draw a picture of herself and then I asked her questions about herself.
She drew a beautiful picture of herself with so much detail. The little beads in her hair. The looped earrings she was wearing. The big smile. She had it all drawn up perfectly.
"Alright, we already wrote your name. So how old are you?" I said.
She didn't say anything out loud. Instead she wrote her answer, 7 years old. I thought it was cute that she didn't just write the number 7- she wrote it out like she would have answered.
"What is your favorite color?" I asked.
Again she wrote it down. Pink and blue.
"What is your favorite food?" I asked.
She wrote down meat. I thought that was cute. I was guessing maybe pizza or tacos, but instead she just put meat.
"What kind of meat do you like?" I asked.
"Meat," she said. So, at this point I am imagining a huge chunk of ground hamburger. Raw. For some reason that is all I thought of.
"Well, chicken! And fish!" She said with excitement. Adorable.
"What is your favorite thing to do?" I asked.
She wrote down her answer, but I couldn't read it all the way.
"Play?" I asked, which is what most kids would say.
"No," she said and looked down. She looked back at me with her bright and hopeful eyes, "Pray."
My heart filled with joy and I got goosebumps.
"I like to pray too," I said. "What do you pray for?"
Confidently she answerd, "God. And my family."
I smiled at her, she is so young and she has the whole world in front of her. She might not know this, but I will pray for her and her family too. I will pray that she realizes her worth and continues to excel in school. I will pray that her and her family get back on their feet soon. She will do great things in life. I just know it. I can't wait to see her again next week.
When I got home tonight, I had a huge smile on my face. It was a combination of the Starbucks I had earlier, the Chinese food in my hand, and most importanly- my night with Rhianna.
"How was it baby?" Justin asked me.
"It was perfect. I am so glad that I am doing this..." I said and told him everything I just told you about the beautiful and talented Rhianna.
"I am so glad babe! I'm just suprised you didn't come home with all of the kids from the shelter," he said.
"Don't give me any ideas," I said.
Because really, if I had a bigger place. I would. I would invite them all in. Feed them. Read with them. Teach them how to cook. Talk about their dreams. And pray with them.