Tuesday, May 31, 2005

She's a Walkin' (Sorta)

Yesterday was a fantastic day as far as my little charge is concerned. Working with Emma is usually a lesson in patience. She has troubles concentrating on a single task and, like most people, will do as little work as she can get away with.

But yesterday she was like a different person. She was focused. She looked me in the eye when I spoke to her and she pushed herself to try and learn what I was teaching. Of course there were lapses of mental presence, but for the most part, you could really tell that she was there.

My biggest goal for Emma is for her to walk by the end of the summer. Right now, I walk in front of her, holding her hands to provide some stability, while she takes slow, halting steps. Amy, Emma's mom, says Emma reminds her of a little deer trying to walk. Her legs wobble and shake with each step and she is constantly on the verge of toppling over.

Yesterday we made great strides towards our goal. I have been practicing with Emma walking while holding onto a pool table for support. I'm trying to ween her off using me for support. A pool table is a nice soft, but firm handhold and has a small groove on the inside for her to grab onto.

The first time we tried this new method, she threw a fit and refused to move her legs. But slowly we have been making progress. The hardest thing has been to get Emma to slide her hand along the table as she moves forward. Usually I hold onto her left hand while she grabs onto the table with her right. I then help her slide her hand along the table. It usually takes a good five minutes to walk one side of the pool table, step by agonizingly slow step. Yesterday she grabbed onto the table, all by herself, started walking slowly and would slide her hand along with her as she progressed. It was a glorious thing. Of course, she also tested out walking on her own yesterday by letting go of the pool table, that didn't go so well. She then had to practice getting up off the floor...

God has been so good to her so far. He has let her progress in amazing ways so quickly. Without him, it just wouldn't work.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Ahhhh... A cute widdle puppy

This little doggy has no idea...

Trapped in a Foreign Land

During this past school year, while attending Grand Canyon University, I worked in the University Writing Center. There I helped students write their papers by giving them advice, suggestions and doing some proofreading. Since I love reading and writing, it was a perfect job for me.

One evening during the second semester, a student came in with her paper. She asked me if I would read it over for her. While I was reading her report, she began sobbing quietly. I asked if she was okay, and she nodded yes and bravely attempted to stop crying. She lowered her head so I couldn't see her face. I don't like to pry into other peoples' lives since I know what it's like to have nosy people asking nosy questions. But I felt compelled to ask her if there was anything I could do for her. I put down her paper that I had been reading and gave her my full attention.

With tears in her eyes, she told me that she was a very long way from home and that she missed her family so much. She was frustrated being in another culture where she didn't speak the language perfectly and missed having the support of her family and friends. She had a lot to say, a lot of thoughts she needed to just verbalize so that they were no longer trapped inside her head. I just listened.

When she finished, I looked her straight in the eyes and told her that I would pray for her. I know that God is bigger than any problem, so I took it to him. By that small token, I indicated to her that I cared. She came back to me a couple more times throughout the year. She became my friend. It took almost nothing for me to show her that I cared, but now she calls me her "brother who she can depend on".

I hope I don't sound like a broken record, but I don't think I can stress this enough. People just want someone who cares. It doesn't take a lot of time or energy, just a little effort. And, it can make all the difference in a person's life.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

My Baby's Gone

My girlfriend, Jamie, took off for Colorado this morning. She is going to be a camp couselor up at a Navigator's camp in the mountains. It should be a good experience for her, dealing with kids 8 -18 for a week at a time with only Sundays off. I think she is supposed to be coming back sometime in the middle of August. It seems like so long and I am already missing her. How am I gonna make it for two and a half months without her? Well, I probably won't. Pray hard.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Where's the ball?

I have started working a second job. Two hours a day. Ten hours a week. Some days it feels like it is killing me and others I would put in all the free overtime I could. For two hours every day I work with a six year old girl who can barely talk, can't walk or stand up, and has the mentality of an 18-month old. We laugh together, she cries sometimes; we are learning all about eachother and are still trying to figure out who the other is. For better or worse, Emma is the new girl in my life.

Emma used to live in Turkey before she was adopted. Her story is a sad one but I won't go into much detail. To sum up, her parents were killed and she was mistreated by the orphanage. Now she is an 18 month old girl trapped in a six year old body.

Everyday we work hard at walking, talking correctly and behaving. I push her hard and there are many tears in our time together. The first day I was encouraged when she walked across a rug holding on to my hands for support. But I knew she could do more. The next day we walked around the whole house, still with her leaning on me for support. Besides the walking we read books, learn words and shapes, and practice simple motor skills.

Her vocabulary isn't big so when she does talk we discuss the same things every day. "Look at the green door." - "Yes Emma that's a nice door." - "Where's the ball?, where's... the... ball???" - "I dunno Emma, let's go look for it." And that is the extent of our chit chat for two hours. We talk about the green door and the ball. Mostly the ball. We will be walking around the room when out of nowhere she will look up at me and ask, "Where's the ball?" It's sad and adorable at the same time. She's six and that's all she can say.

On Saturday, it was a special session, I worked with her for only an hour. We walked around and around the basement of her house. When she does well, I praise her. Sometimes by clapping, but usually I give her a hug and tell her good job. Saturday I pushed her harder than usual, trying to get her to walk more on her own. Near the end of our time, after a particularly tearful and frustrating walk, I gave her a hug and told her good job. For the first time, she hugged me back. It wasn't much, but she actually reached her arm around me and gave me a little hug. I was so touched.

It's not easy. The progress is agonizingly slow. Emma can be difficult and downright frustrating at times. But when it all comes down to it, I love my job and God has given me a heart for that little girl. I may not be out saving the world, but I'm trying to make a difference in my little corner of it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What about ME???

I just realized, I have yet to put any personal information up on this blog. So here goes nothing. A vain attempt to sum up my life and my purpose for this blog.

For starters, I am an ambassador for Christ cleverly disguised as a poor college student. I am the son of a great King and brother to a mighty warrior. I was dead but now I'm alive; hopeless, but now filled with joy;worried, but now confident that he who began a good work will be faithful to complete it; fearful, but now loved with an everlasting love; and I am anxiously awaiting the day when the trumpet will sound, the nations will bow and Jesus will return to judge the world with justice and take me to live with him in paradise.

As for the purpose of this blog, starting in the Fall of 2005 I am going to be a Resident Assistant at Grand Canyon University. I will be a Junior and living in the dorms on campus. Although my Resident Director didn't officially give out homework, he did say that my fellow RA's and I should keep some form of a summer journal or thought record. This is my attempt to follow his instructions.

Currently I am majoring in Biology with a probable minor in Chemistry. After my bachelors, I hope to go to Medical School in Tucson, Arizona where I would like to study pediatrics. Once I graduate from Medical School I'm probably going to do the whole pediatrician thing for a couple of years before I start teaching at the high school I graduated from.

If you had asked me my plans back in April, the whole teaching part would have have been much later in life, maybe when I was around fifty years old or so. But in these past two weeks, since school has been out, God has revealed to me a new passion: teaching. I love it. I had so much fun substituting and working with the high school students and watching them learn and grow. And that was only for four days! It is truly something I could do for the rest of my life and be extremely happy with it. Plans change eh?

So I guess that's about it. If you happen to stumble upon my summer musings, enjoy them, leave a comment, or critique and hopefully you might learn something too. I'm looking forward to this summer. It is already shaping up to be one that will impact the rest of my life...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Who Cares?

One of my students told me today that her teacher in a different class didn't care. This is inexcusable. Your students don't care what you know until they know that you care. Is there anything worse than an apathetic teacher? Students want to know that their teacher cares about what they are doing and what they are trying to accomplish.

For most of my students, they want to do their math so they can get out of high school with good grades and then go to college. This is important to them, so it is important to me, their teacher. When they see that they are important to me and what they care about is important to me, then they start to take an interest in what I care about: teaching them math. By taking an interest in my students I am helping them want to learn. They work harder in class and show me respect because I take the time to care.

I have seen vast improvements in the four days I have been teaching. Students are working harder to grasp concepts that they otherwise would have been disinterested in. The progress is astounding. Who cares? I do.

Monday, May 09, 2005

First Impressions

Which is better: to err on the side of caution or to reach for the stars? The former leaves a person wondering what could have been, the latter often ends in heartache. Is it truly better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?
Playing it safe leaves room for pain but the result is too often mediocrity. Reaching for the stars sometimes means grabbing at air, but every now and then a monumental accomplishment is acheived. Isn't that worth it all?
Today I learned that it is important to invest in people. Most people I know just want to feel that someone cares. They want someone who is willing to invest a little bit of the one commodity we all receive equal ammounts of: time. We all are given 24 hours every day. To invest that time in a person is truly a worthwhile effort.
There are three essential ways ofinvesting time in another person's life. First of all, everyone want to find someone who cares about their well-being: what is going on in their life? Are they sick? How is their family? What is an obstacle they are trying to overcome? Do they just need a shoulder to cry on? Find out how they are doing. And then care.
Secondly, everone wants someone who cares about their dreams. What do they want to do with their life? What sort of things do they hope will happen in the future? Find out what makes them tick, what gets their fire going. And then help them towards their goal.
Finally, everyone needs someone to give them an encouraging word. They need to hear verbally that they are not worthless. They need to hear that some else believes that they can do anything they want. They long to feel that they have a purpose and can be useful. Find out how they feel needed. And help them arrive at the realization that their life does have a point.
All of this takes time. Make sure you don't waste the prescious little you have every day. Invest in something that is worthwhile: lives are only lived once.