The story I am going to relate is probably one of the most personal that I've ever written on a blog. You might get to the end of it and think, what's so personal about this? Well, admitting to a crowd that you have weaknesses and prejudices is not the easiest thing to propagate. The person that portray to others very well might not be the person that we really are. We all have insecurities. However, I have found that as we face our insecurities and weaknesses, we grow leaps and bounds. Therefore, this is a story of me growing. It is one of my many true manifestations.
No, not me.....please, not me.
But I knew I needed to go. I had never thought myself to be racist, but at that moment I knew that I had fallen. My predicament-- I had just been presented with the "opportunity" to work as a teacher's aid once a week on a First Nation's Reserve in British Columbia, Canada, but I didn't want to go! I didn't want to work with them! I had come to go to Bible school, not work with kids (wow, that just sounds bad now, but that is where my heart was at the time- judge me if you want).
I couldn't believe my own thoughts. Prejudice was staring me straight in the face. I wrestled with idea for a day trying to ease my conscience, trying to find out some way to side step this "opportunity." But I couldn't run away. I knew I had to do it. It wasn't just a, Oh, I need to do this, sort of thought. I was a sort of God-compelling thought that I was not able to walk away from.
We had to take a BC ferry to get to the reserve. We were five in total. I think I was the only one who really didn't want to be on the ferry that first Wednesday morning, but I was there nevertheless. As the ramp came down onto the ferry's deck, I prayed for strength and that God would somehow change my hard heart. Then we began the walk to the school.
We were greeted by two mangy dogs that were so elated to see us I thought they would break in half from wagging their tails. Up the hill we went, over the random logs, and through the woods via gravel trail. It only took 10 minutes from ferry to the front door of the school, an eternity in my book. There I was standing in the entryway.
"Would you like to meet your class?" said the principle.
"Yes." was all I could get out.
I walked into a room filled with squealing children ranging from ages three to five. All of them had beautiful dark skin and brown eyes, but they were all so different. Some were built of tiny frames. They looked more like toddlers than school children. Others smiled at me with toothless grins having already lost their two front teeth. I was surrounded by the Preschool and Kindergarten class of the Penelakut Tribe of Kuper Island.
My interactions with the children were a bit awkward at first, but for some reason children like me. We warmed up to each other much faster than I was expecting. As we sat in a circle learning their mother tongue, they were climbing all over me trying to sit on my lap and hang on my back. I tried to be extremely careful with any physical contact because of all the laws that the province had in dealing with child abuse. Children aren't even allowed to sit on an adult's lap, but these kids didn't care! They were starving for love!
It didn't take long before my heart was won. Years of prejudice were swept away in just a couple weeks. It was the love of these children that started melting my icy heart. I began to see these tribes in a different light. Soon, compassion, respect and even pride started to well up deep within me. I don't have an ounce of First Nation's Blood in me, but I began to feel like I was accepted by them as I was of them.
I am so glad that I made the decision that I did and went to volunteer at that school. Those children loved me like none have since. I still have their pictures on my wall in my room and when I look at their little eyes peering back at me, I smile and wonder how they are getting along today.