Friday, October 07, 2005

Thanksgiving Feast

I am writing this post with a public airing in mind, so that I can share a bit of the really amazing stuff I've been exposed to and immersed in for the last few weeks. I have kept the daily journal, which I find constantly unpostable because it is referring to private or boring things—either way, stuff I don't want the world reading. But here was a day I can finally write about with some confidence about its draw to the general public.

I shared a meal with the students of 8H today. Heather and I cooked one of the birds starting at 6:00am so it would be ready for the 12:30 meal. The rest of the menu consisted of everything from sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole, and Caesar salad to spaghetti with meatballs, a turkey shaped pumpkin pound cake, and fruit kabobs. The classroom was decorated with incredible care and a lot of pizzaz—the table was set with plastic cloths, turkey napkins, plastic cutlery, and floating candles in 1L beakers.

When we finally rustled everyone to their seats and had all the food ready the room was about to burst with the excitement of it all. Ms. H. raised a glass of cream soda to the class and thanked them for what had been an incredible year so far. She said some very flattering things to them, things for just their ears, but you could see the pride spread from her end of the table down to where I sat. It was spectacular. Then, as we all began eating, one of the more entertaining and vocal students asked for quiet and described all of the things for which he was thankful. They knew that this was going to be part of the itinerary for the afternoon, but it was mind-blowing to see it start on its own accord. After that everyone went down the line, one by one. And the things these kids are thankful for! Thankful for being in a country where she is free to have an education and feel safe at night; thankful for the protection that his father has been able to experience from our health care system; thankful for the love of friends in trying times. Sure, there were the obvious references to family and teachers, but even these were heartfelt. There were tears from some of the more dramatic students and it all made me feel incredibly good. It's very hard to be cynical about witnessing true gratitude.

Unfortunately, there was one student (who has been having difficulty adjusting to a new school in a new country working with a new language) that was painfully unhappy during the majority of the afternoon. I sat next to him for the meal and tried to protect him from prying questions from the other students as well as include him in anything I did (like taking the leftover turkey to the fridge). It was particularly bad to see his pain because of how starkly it contrasted with the mood of everyone else in the room. Try as we might, we were not able to figure out what was eating at him even after we discussed his situation during the event and after school. We did arrive at one possible explanation: the fact that he is a recent arrival to the school has meant that he has not been getting the kind of attention he needs. I think that seeing what we saw today, there is no question that he will be getting that attention in short order. Something to be thankful for, indeed.