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That Open Space

Hope inspires action, yet requires great patience and a certain amount of open space to help prepare you for what is to come when it decides to arrive. I've been thinking about that open space... the wait... and its capacity to lift or level you. I think about people like Odette hoping to be reunited with her children; people like Mama Lucy hoping to expand her school to make room for more students; people like Mupenzi hoping to find true love again. People like that don't give up. They take action, yet they know how to wait patiently in that open space.


To Be Greater Than

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.”  --Ben Okri

We didn't have time to hear her story.  We were rushing to stay on the schedule, to make it back in time.  To return to where I do not know, since the most true thing was the green of her fields, the honest determination in her eyes.

This is what a drive-by shooting looks like.  Just a split second with the truth.  Still, while we took what we wanted, she gave.  Willing to show us, though we didn't have time for silence or words, what it looks like to triumph.  Glad for us to know if only for a minute, what she could do with her mind, that green and her hands.


Room to Jump

This sweet girl is one of six children living at Mama Lucy's hostel under the care of a matron, just a short drive away from Shepherd's Junior School in Arusha, Tanzania. A kind school bus driver comes to pick them up each weekday morning and returns them here safely to their gated home. While the hostel remains a special place reserved for very special children, many of the students at Shepherds Junior have expressed their desire to live here in this golden home among their friends.


Teacher Johnson Goes to School

It is the last day before everyone leaves.  The internet lab--the first of its kind in Arusha and maybe even Tanzania--is humming as the kids type their tweets back and forth to one another and then their new counterparts around the world.  Teacher Johnson, handsome as always in his dress shirt and freshly polished shoes, logs on--could it be?--on the last day, for the first time?

Teacher Johnson!  You don't have any followers!  Where are all your tweets?  I don't know what he'll do on Monday when everyone is gone.  Did you go to the class for the teachers?  He feels my panic and flashes me that sheepish, worried smile. We both know how hard the volunteers worked; how insistent they were this could happen, that it would be easy, even if we both had our secret, silent doubts.

I'll get it.  I'm getting it, he says, as he hunts and pecks his way forward into his new responsibility as internet advocate + classroom teacher extraordinaire. 

This is how it is when we bring new things halfway around the world.  We have no idea how foreign things  feel.  We glide right over how strange it is to trust that we'll still be together when we've always been so far apart.  We have no comprehension of what it means to be over and over again left behind and then in one instant, forever included.

I promise to retweet him religiously.  To help him get the most followers of any tweeter in the school.  His eyes flash with the spark of competition.  His fingers move a little faster as we joke and smile.  He is deciding to believe it might stay, this tiny thread connecting divergent worlds.  He is deciding to put a sliver of hope in it.  He is deciding to try.

You can follow Teacher Johnson's clever quotes and honest questions at @teacherjohnson1 on Twitter.





It Takes Courage

It takes courage to push past firm boundaries and place yourself somewhere you've never been... to let yourself be vulnerable... to dig beneath the surface and claim the desire of your heart... to allow yourself to hope... to trust. It takes courage to raise your hand and answer the question knowing there's a chance you could be wrong... to follow your intuition down a crooked path with no end in sight... to act... to change the goal and redefine your strategy... to say the words you need to say regardless of how they will be heard. Yes, it takes courage. But it's in you.

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