It had not been a good day.
Walking home from school my attitude was sour and defeated. Lack of communication led to disruptive behavior and unnecessary tantrums. I was frustrated, mostly with myself.
All I wanted was to go home. I wanted to take a hot shower because the cool temperatures rattled my bones and drift asleep to a movie. I wanted what anyone does after a bad day.
Yet, those are comforts I live without here. Besides I had an afterschool class to teach so the warmth of my bed was still hours off. (The class was eventually cancelled, increasing my aggravation as I try to mutter through Sesotho to figure out why no one has showed up for the last few weeks.)
As I sheltered myself from the wind and mumbled soft hellos to those I pass, I saw one of my students walking with her grandmother. They live near me and we greet each other with big smiles every day. My student was telling me she is going to cook maize that night while carrying the giant bag of corn kernels on her head. Without a mother and father, the student and her siblings with the grandmother. After class she must go home and down the family’s washing and cooking and haul large buckets of water 600 meters from the well to her tiny rondavel.
Her grandmother doesn’t usually say much to me because of the language barrier. But that day was different. At first I didn’t understand her words, but then a few popped up and I realized she was thanking me.
The student recently applied for a Peace Corps scholarship that is funded by Lesotho RPCVs. She’s not officially accepted into the program yet but, if she is, she’ll receive tuition assistance for half of the year, a definite break for her family.
“I am so happy to be around you,” the student said with a smile. She is not the smartest in my class; in fact she can rarely put together a cohesive sentence. But her heart and desire to learn swell. She tries hard every time and refuses to give up.
She is a walking symbol. She is the reason I am here, to just do one thing that could maybe make her life .01 percent happier. She reminds me to never quit. She tells me – literally, when she knows that I am upset – to be happier.
She is the reason that I can go to bed after a bad day and know the next day will be better. She is redemption.
These are the moments that send me home at the end of the day with reassurance. It wasn’t all great but nothing is. Sometimes there are moments when quitting seems reasonable, but then, before you can, one little thing will happen and you remember that it is worth it. It is always worth it.