Wednesday, March 31, 2010

greener grass

Today, I learned a harsh lesson.

I had to travel off-site for work, to observe a classroom of students. I am an editor for a company who not only publishes educational material for at-risk learners, but also teaches the programs they need to get back on their feet, obtain their GED certificate or high school diploma, and become a successful employee.

The class was at the National Guard center, and I knew a lot of the people in the course would be pursuing a career in the military. I imagined there would be a couple of females.

I didn't imagine one would be pregnant. Or that the only empty seat in the room would be sitting next to her.

Today, I judged.

I don't remember her name. Because I was too busy judging her and eying her bulging belly as she politely shook my hand. She was no older than 18. "Too young to be having unprotected, careless sex," I thought. I rolled my eyes as she gently pulled up her shirt and rubbed her belly, and asked the instructor if she could use the restroom.

Today, for once, I felt compassion instead of anger and hate.

She is the oldest of 12 children, the program director told me. She doesn't have to be in this course. It isn't a requirement of a school or correctional facility. She applied to be there. She doesn't have her own transportation. So she wakes up early every morning to take the bus. The bus drops her off nearly a mile away, and she walks--to and from the bus stop, rain or shine--to be at class early. While the other students broke for lunch, she took a sip of her water and put her head down on the desk to nap. She didn't have lunch. Her mother is on food stamps, yet her oldest daughter, carrying a child, is not important enough for her to feed. When it was her turn to tell the class what her career goals were, she said they were to obtain her GED certification and enroll in school to go into the medical field. The instructor told her that maybe becoming a nail technician was more realistic. She quietly nodded and stared at her paper.

I wanted to scream, "You can be whatever you want to be!" I wanted her to know that her mistakes shouldn't have to define her. I wanted her to know that she was already on the right path. I wanted to let her know that she could stop the cycle. I wanted to let her know that she should never give up hope. That the moment you give up hope, that's when your dreams never come true.

Today, for a moment, I forgot my own struggle and cried for hers.

19 comments:

JC said...

Awe. I'm about to cry right now for that girl. This was such a beautiful post and I know I would have judged her at first. =(

(ps-lunch next week sounds good, or I could do Friday if you want?)

Dawn said...

How sad for this girl. It's so easy to judge, but it's nice to be reminded that we always don't know the whole story. I hope this girl realizes that she can be whatever she wants to be.

Pope said...

What a moving post. I am mortified that the instructor gave such poor "advice". One need not wonder what factors contribute to the cycle of poverty. Thank you for the post and for reminding me that compassion is sometimes the least used human "muscle".

waiting for baby said...

Good for you. I hope to feel that way some day! Thanks for following.

Jen said...

We can probably all use reminders once in awhile that there is usually more to every story, but judging is second nature I think. This was a beautiful post; thanks for sharing

Just Me...C said...

The instructor is not deserving of his/her position, or any position as far as I'm concerned. Why can't people just be kind and motivational rather than cruel, insensitive, assholes? So tragic. So sweet that you shed tears for her. Thank you for demonstating kindness etc as many others are obviously incapable of such.

The Millers said...

Wow! My goosebumps have goosebumps. Stories like this really helps me put my life in perspective. So often I am consumed by my own troubles. I do not realize how much I really have.
Thank you for sharing this story and being so candid.

Ashley said...

This was an awesome post. You're a fantastic writer, just so you know. Sometimes we (me included) have to just sit back and realize that so many people would give anything to have our lives, even though we complain about so much. Many prayers for that girl--we all make mistakes and I can't imagine being in her shoes.

Kandid Kelli said...

this made me tear up. who the HELL is that instructor to put someone down like that anyways. pisses me off.

xo
-K

AplusB said...

Wow, that is so sad. I would have felt the same way, so please don't feel bad for judging her.
PS Your job sounds really cool, and very rewarding

S.I.F. said...

I volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters and my heart constantly aches for the little girl I work with. Breaking out of that cycle is so hard, and it is difficult to watch. I feel you on this one!

Beth said...

What a gorgeous post about something not so gorgeous. You are a big woman to write such ad honest assessment of not only yourself but also of this girl. Well done!

xo Beth

Kelly said...

I'm sorry that this day was tough for you for so many reasons.

I'm disgusted by the instructor who told her being a nail tech would be more realistic. I hope that she takes that as inspiration to push forward with what she wants even more.

Bean stalk ballads said...

Man that was a tough day on so many levels. You are a fantastic person and I am sorry it was so hard but hopefully a little bit of you rubbed off on her...that compassionate confident bit. This touched a personal nerve for all of us because we have all had that instructor in our lives at some point.

Rebecca said...

That was beautiful and that instructor should be slapped.

Al said...

Beautiful post, Katie.

I'm angry with the instructor for crushing her dreams - I think a nursing assistant is definitely possible, as long as she puts her mind to it.

Candidly_Andrea said...

What a beautiful post. I would have judged as well on first glance. It's alarming that an instructor, someone in a power position could push someone back down like that. I hope this young lady has someone in her life to tell her that she CAN be whatever she wants to be.

Rachel said...

Wow! what a post! I am too quick to judge, so thank you for this reminder!

liberalgranolagirl said...

Thank you for this beautiful post. I definitely need the reminder to not judge in those types of situations.

Her instructor should be reprimanded, and harshly. These kids have enough going against them. They need people who will root FOR them and help them to attain their dreams. I pray that she didn't take the instructor's words to heart.