Absorb-worthy

“Dr. Montessori stresses that children absorb completely whatever they experience in the first plane of development and these experiences become a part of their soul. This places an incredible responsibility on us as the adults in their lives… How will or should this influence the way you are with children? What qualities, fears, attitudes do you have that you would and would not want children to absorb? What kinds of impressions do you want the child to gain from their experience with you and in the environment you prepare?”

This is the kind of thing that spiked me into PPD/A after Amy was born. I was so committed to doing things right, but so very aware that not only do we all make mistakes, but we make mistakes that really hurt people. What a paralyzing thought. It seems flippant to just figure that people ought to know that about one another and learn forgiveness. And yet that does seem to be what we’re called to in regards to our debtors, those who sin or trespass against us. We are to have compassion and mercy on them as our Father has on us. Perhaps it is possible, then, to find a proper balance or harmony or integration between taking sin seriously on the one hand, and on the other hand, trusting in grace — not just from God (who has to be gracious) but also from others (who don’t).

So I could talk about aiming to be kind, warm, open-hearted, compassionate, and respectful toward the children in my class. I could talk about working to minimize my impatience, my anxiety, my distress in chaos and disorder, my tendency to take things personally and negatively. But perhaps what I should focus on instead is how I could model grace and compassion when I mess up, not only in the way I apologize and seek to make amends, but also in how I treat myself the wrongdoer — acknowledging the wrong, taking responsibility, but not overly berating myself, not labeling myself as bad. Or how I could model self-control, self-awareness, self-care, peace, and consideration, in times when I’m experiencing strong emotions.

I would want the children to get the impression that everyone and everything belongs, that there is always room for compassion and respect even within a firm moral and ethical framework, for ourselves and for others.

“Perfection is not within the grasp of ordinary human beings. Efforts to attain it typically interfere with that lenient response to the imperfections of others, including those of one’s child, which alone make good human relations possible.” — Bettelheim

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Calling

My coursework has already begun for the Montessori teacher education program I’m doing through CGMS, the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. It’s a hybrid of a distance learning program plus a 2 1/2 week residency and a whole school year of student teaching / practicum / internship.

One of the assignments for the orientation is journaling. This week’s prompt is to reflect on our sense of calling to work with children, what draws us to this work, what we feel called to do in this work, what we hope will come from it.

My thoughts turn toward two youth ministers. Brian talked and listened to us, even when we were middle schoolers, as if we were really people, whose ideas, feelings, dreams, and thoughts were legitimate, worth taking seriously. I’m sure he knew when we were being irrational and overly dramatic, but he didn’t treat us dismissively or ridicule us at such times.

When I was an adult volunteer with another church youth ministry, the youth pastor Tim modeled respect and compassion in another way. When kids were whispering to or poking each other, or when someone was just wiggly, he invited them to step out of the room to work it out. Anyone could say those words, and for most adult leaders it would be spoken as a threat and a criticism — as if the kid is being bad or needs to be punished or singled out and shamed. But Tim spoke it as a real invitation. He acknowledged just how normal it is to be distracted, to have the wiggles or the giggles, and encouraged kids to see taking a quick break as a positive strategy rather than a mark of shame or a punishment.

These two guys — and I’m sure I could think of many other people — modeled what have become my core values, compassion and respect. In all my interactions with people I hope to be governed and marked by these values. They have guided me as a volunteer in youth ministry, as a camp counselor, as a high school teacher, as a parent, and in situations that have nothing to do with kids.

There are other things that have drawn me to work in early childhood education. I find it fascinating how little children observe and explore their world, how language develops, how learning works, how social graces coalesce. I like how open, energetic, and curious kids can be, and how surprising their thoughts and feelings can be. I’m enthusiastic about how Montessori created an educational program (among others) that makes so much sense in real life. I want to be part of it all, and I think that these core values of compassion and respect will serve me well as I grow into teaching, will serve the children well as recipients and practitioners of these values, and will fit harmoniously with Montessori’s emphasis on peace, grace, and courtesy.

Help create a doctor for Honduras

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Abigail, the daughter of the priest at the church where we were working in Honduras last month, plans to begin medical school this fall. Her hope is to serve the poor and needy — to open a hospital near her village, perhaps later to work with Doctors Without Borders.

Would you help? Please share this GoFundMe with your social networks, and donate if you can.

And then we go home

On Sunday, I was feeling much better, but still not up to the exertion of visiting the ruins. While the rest went, two of us rested at the hotel. We took a little walk into town to look around and buy a few things.

For lunch we shared an order of pantumaca and one of hummus. Pantumaca, a Spanish dish, is a bowl of tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil purée, served with their fantastic homemade bread. The hummus was also served with bread. Either topping was nice with the bread, and especially both together.

When the others returned, it was time to pack up and head back to San Pedro, checking back in at The Green Frog before another dinner at Chedrani, the tree house restaurant. Maybe not the best choice in retrospect; where we sat was right by the source of the very loud music, and it was hot. Also by now perhaps all of us were short on patience; dinner out in these parts means so much waiting, to order drinks, to get them, to order food, to get it, to get the bill, to pay, to get receipts, and finally to leave. A lingering dinner can be a lovely thing, but perhaps it loses some charm when it’s every day with the same people, with whom it seems we have run out of things to talk about.

On Monday I remained at the hotel to read, knit, rest, while the others returned to the Guamalito market. They also stopped by the church where the roof has been finished and the ladies were back to work making tortillas to sell, and they also visited the diocesan office. Then they stopped here to put their purchases away and pick me up for a run to the mall.

The food court was similar to one of ours, with a mix of local chains as well as Burger King, Popeye’s, and the like. Marilyn and I were both inclined to get ice cream for lunch. At Sarita’s I heard the man next to us ask about the passion fruit with mango, and he helped us out identifying some of the other flavors. Turns out he had worked in the States, in Indiana and Ohio, driving equipment and cars down here. Anyway, I got a waffle cone with the passionfruit / mango and coconut ice cream, and Marilyn got pistachio and coconut. It was a perfect lunch after many heavy large meals.

After meandering around the mall a bit we reconvened and returned for a rather luxurious few hours with nothing official to do. Several of us enjoyed the pool.

In the evening we had invited Bishop Lloyd Allen to dine with us. It was interesting to hear what he had to say about this diocese of Honduras, its history, how things are working out now, and their efforts to become fully self-supporting by 2019, when the Episcopal church will no longer help with any finances. It is encouraging that already the diocese produces some 68% of its budget, compared to 2% in 2001. On the other hand the budget has had to change and make a lot of cuts and require its churches to also become more self-sufficient.

Then there was the food. This was the fanciest place we went to, and it was a marvelously good way to end. A nice white wine, appetizer of scallops au gratin, amazingly good salmon ravioli in tomato basil sauce, and flan. Mmmmm. I think the others were equally pleased with what they got — suckling pig, octopus, ceviches, beef heart skewers, chicken chili, and even sweet and sour chicken.

On the other hand it was well past nine by the time we left.

This morning we pack once more, and then we’ll be home again.

I have liked being here in the country of some of my friends from Santo Tomás. I have been able to converse in Spanish more effectively than I had feared. As all teams do we had our issues with personality differences, patience, time and space, organization and communication, illness and tiredness and emotional strain. And we also showed kindness and mercy to one another, enjoyed each other, and worked together. The people of the church here were a great pleasure, from the littlest toddler to the elders. Our driver Freddy was one of us. Staff at our hotels were uniformly gracious, and many of our servers at restaurants, too.

Now I am ready for home, perhaps to return someday.

Rest

Image of the view from our room.

I have been resting all day here at Casa de Café.

Image of the courtyard; Byron and Loren.

Managed some toast, chamomile tea, and passion fruit / carrot juice for brunch, later some yogurt and another cup of tea. The bread is wonderful, lovely texture and taste, homemade. The yogurt is homemade, too, and also lovely. For dinner, the owner personally made chicken soup for Loren and me, something they don’t have on the regular menu. I had a bit of fish as well. It feels good to have eaten.

Image of menu.

It has been a little lonely as the healthy folks hang out and chat, go shopping, go to the bird park, and I am not often well enough to leave our room. FOMO, you know; fear of missing out, or silly sadness that everyone is capable of having a good time without me.

Image of lower level.

On the other hand this is a beautiful place, both the town and this hotel, and if I have to sit around trying to recuperate this is an excellent place in which to do so. There’s a grassy courtyard our rooms look out onto, with tables and chairs, and hammocks even. Bougainvillea, lemon grass, ginger, bamboo, cacti, and other plants all around. Down the hill a bit the other set of rooms and two nooks each with a table and chairs and umbrella.

Image of lower rooms.

And of course I’m glad folks are having a good time and seeing and doing things. I was also grateful for everyone being solicitous about how I am doing, and to Rhonda and Fr John for staying behind at dinner time to keep Loren and me company, and the hotel staff for being so accommodating.

Image of our porch.

Meanwhile I have gotten some knitting done and have nearly finished Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. I rather love dystopian novels.

Image of hammock.

Farewell

Friday we had a half workday.

I recorded the two songs, Cristo Libertador and Quien Es Ese, as well as the English one I had shown Abigail, One Thing, then worked with Luís on cleaning and organizing a bookcase with children’s books and art supplies. He tried to talk to me and I didn’t understand much but he was too shy or embarrassed to have Keller translate for him. He also sang pop songs to me in a high and light voice.

After lunch the folks of the church made sweet speeches of appreciation for our presence, work, and fellowship with them, and presented us with lovely gifts: traditional corn flour cookies, and candy-filled mugs with a print of the church’s Holy Supper painting, the name of the church and the dates, and our names.

Image of the ladies and me.

There were lots of hugs and then back to the Green Frog to shower and change. Back in the van for a roughly three-hour trip to Copán Ruinas. Not much legroom in the van, and my knees and hips were complaining. First thing when we arrived at Casa de Cafe B&B, I did a little yoga in the grassy courtyard; much better.

Just after dinner I was hit with sudden intestinal distress… this morning I am feeling a little better but will likely be stuck in my room recuperating today. One of our other folks is also suffering. It’s a bit lonely to lie here listening to the others chatting over breakfast in the courtyard.

Copán Ruinas is beautiful and charming, with narrow cobbled streets, some dramatically steep. There are beautiful softly worn, wrinkly steep mountains along the way here. And when we stopped at a fruit stand the seller gifted me a bunch of finger bananas.