24 January 2011

A Lesson Five Months in the Making

I went into Sunday a bit despondent, aware of my pervasive discontent with circumstances surrounding a handful of my priorities for the last week.  Namely, I tried to bring actualization to my goal of diversifying my social circles by participating in a friendly soccer match on Tuesday, but the experience was leagues from my expectations.  Then, on Thursday, I visited a sixth grade classroom for the morning on the promise that I would help a new student, who spoke only Spanish, with her classroom instruction and with some integration assistance.  This went well enough by my estimation, but at the end of my time there the student had grown more comfortable with our interaction and she began to tease me about how little Spanish I was able to communicate in.  To readers, this probably seems very thin-skinned of me, to be affronted by the presumptions of a sixth grader, but anyone who has tried to speak a foreign language with a native speaker knows that it is a very sensitive task.  Further, that afternoon, I had to give an impromptu speech to the school's PTA, to ask if there was an interest for an Iron Band after-school program and if the parents would themselves support it by sending selected students to school with an instrument (e.g. a steel pot, a box, a kettle, a teacup...).  This was met with little to no enthusiastic response, so now I am not sure if acquiring instruments from home is the right first step to getting this program off the ground.  Any other ideas?

All of these things have served to make me feel very inadequate.  That is the feeling that was nagging at me all morning, and when I went into church wanting to talk to God about it, I found myself instead guilty of... well... mentally checking out of the service.  Granted, it is a long service at 2 hours, and I have grown accustomed to the Anglican liturgy to the point that I can recite portions of it by memory, but at one point I found myself wishing there was some place I could go to just sit and commune with God.  (!) That's when it hit me: I'm in church!  What on earth did I come here for but to spend time with God?  So after communion I settled into the kneeling pad and asked God to speak to me about these feelings of inadequacies.  And He did; He introduced me to a different point of view, one that every Peace Corps Volunteer has to learn at some point.  What if I'm not here just to serve others, but also to learn about myself as well?  Seems obvious enough, certainly.  And the topic certainly came up in training, which began 5 months ago to the day, incidentally.  But I guess it's just one of those lessons that have to be learned experientially, for oneself.  I mean, either that, or I'm just a slow learner.  But the fact is that when one is taken up with the prospect of spending two years of one's life in a developing country with the mandate to promote a spirit of peace and friendship between nationalities as well as social and economic community development, it is natural to assume that all that time is going to be taken up in giving to the cause.  I can't help but think that this notion is further ingrained and supported by a culture that sanctions taking by whatever means: the simplest defense mechanism I know of is to give freely without thought of return, lest I be disappointed.

So apparently I still have a lot to learn about myself, a concept that alone has never sat well with my self-image, and even now feels uncomfortable for me to say.  So maybe a better prayer request would be for God to ease the growing pains somewhat while I am down here, and to continue to give me the courage to strive for the goals in front of me despite adversity in the forms of internal struggles as well as the natural external ones.

1 comment:

  1. It is so easy to get discouraged here Chris, but I am glad you seem to be finding the personal lessons amongst failures . . .or what may feel like failure at the time.
    Learning about myself is still something that I struggle with from time to time. These past couple of weeks have been challenging in that regard, but I appreciate your blog post, as it reminds me that I can trust in Him to show me the answers in His time. Thanks for that. I hope your project are going well.