When I walk into the large room used for tutoring the children, it is normally devoid of anyone under the age of 21. The tutors slowly trickle in the door, but the children will all come bursting forth after their supper. We go from a scene of relative calm organization to the energy packed chaos of a room full of children in moments. As they stream through the door, their is a multi-colored parade of all sizes and shapes rushing to find "Their Place" for the evening. The children from Pre-K to middle school are strategically arranged by table by age. Ideally one on one tutoring is the goal, Realistically, with the shelter over-flowing with families currently, that is not possible. This week I had three first graders sitting at a square table with me. Two of these had the same teacher--WONDERFUL--and then there is the other child whose teacher assigns completely different homework--SIGH! It is organized bedlam while being pulled three different directions and all expecting my undivided attention. At this age, independent work for a long stretch of homework is living in a fantasy world.
The three girls have three very different styles of completing their homework. The first one to sit at the table is on task the minute she sits downs and works through her assigned sheets in methodical order. My kind of girl---OCD serves us well! The second child saunters in late, demands attention, complains, whines, and requires assistance with each and every line and item. Getting those two sheets, which required Student Number One- 25 minutes, is worse than pulling teeth. I finally resort to the threat of missing computer time if your homework is not complete. THEN--in strolls Student Number 3--45 minutes late---WHERE has she been? All I get is a silly grin and shrug of the shoulders,when I demand to know the answer to that mystery. I look at her and tell her she will not be able to have computer time since all homework has to be finished to use the educational computer games, and she only has 15 minutes. She bows her head and quickly goes to work, fifteen minutes later she is finished.
Three girls, three different approaches to their work, three different colors and a drastic difference in their abilities. Yet somehow we finish our work and are on task at the end of the time. The amazing thing--they are all good friends. In fact, I have noted all the children from the youngest to the oldest have developed a wonderful comradery and seem to love each other. Oh, sure, there is a little fussing, but they also are quick to give each other hugs and play together amazingly well.
WHY? Under what the world would consider dire circumstances of being homeless, how do these children manage to get along so well and develop community in such a short period? Shared circumstances, in my opinion, has drawn them together. No one in the shelter has a home---that is not the way of the world---it has to be tough to go to school and everyone in your class understand your family is for all practical purposes destitute. In the rules of society--you have nothing if you don't even have a home of some sort or fashion.
I saw the same thing when sitting in the ICU waiting room for days on end while Momma was terminally ill. The room was full of family members and friends from all walks of life, and yet we all had one huge thing in common--the desperation which comes from not knowing if we would share another day with our loved one. It was amazing how we pulled together and shared in one another's ups and downs in this microcosm of waiting.
Those who have suffered with cancer have drawn together to support each other. When my sister in law had breast cancer, other survivors supported her and guided her along the way. The sharing of common scars, the debilitating suffering through chemo and radiation, and the agonizing wait for the five year mark was their common bond.
There is a club of sort which none of us desire to join, but I have seen sweet friends draw strength and courage from---those who have lost children. This bond is a mighty magnet of shared suffering and loss. No one could possibly understand their grief except another who has stood in their place.
The wonder I have experienced in working with these children and observing all those others---they are not concerned with race, success, size, or any other outward physical presentation. They pull together, support each other and find commonality in their sufferings and hardship. Through circumstances which none of us ever want to experience, they have learned the importance of viewing things above the minutiae of the day. They rise above the dailiness of the stress and pain of their circumstance by reaching out to others in the very same place.
When those children pour through that door, instead of agonizing over how I am going to be able to help them, they have taught me to accept them for who they are. Some will be having great days and others will be in tears, that does not diminish their importance in my eyes. As they accept each other, I strive to accept them for who they are--God's greatly loved precious children--the least of these who all have a common bond of homelessness.
But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;
and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation,
because like flowering grass he will pass away.