Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tuesday's Torch Story

We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own.
~Ben Sweetland

Two and a half years ago, I got a crazy idea. It all started with our favorite Mexican restaurant. We made friends with the manager. I sewed some aprons for her kitchen staff. One of the kitchen workers loved her new apron and wanted to learn how to sew. She didn't speak English. I didn't speak Spanish. If I had had an ounce of common sense I would have walked away.

But I agreed to try to teach Ana how to sew. And the next thing I knew, it was Ana and Juana (who also did not speak English) at the weekly sewing lessons. For that first summer, I was dragging my sewing machine and all of my sewing equipment (scissors, measuring tape, pins, etc.) out to their UN-air-conditioned house every Sunday afternoon. (Did I mention that we live in Florida?)

I spent hours on the computer each week, using a free translation web-site, trying to prepare all possible sentences (in Spanish) that I MIGHT need for the upcoming lesson...

Each time we went to the fabric store, they were instinctively drawn to the most complicated patterns and most difficult-to-work-with fabrics...

We ALL struggled to communicate. And despite the fact that most of the time neither side really knew what the other side was thinking, we kept moving forward...

They got better at sewing. I got better at Spanish. They gained a glimpse into my world and I gained a glimpse into theirs. We became friends and I know that my path was brightened by that friendship.

Ana, in particular, has become a dear friend. Last Fall, when her church announced that it was going to start offering free adult ESL classes, and that they were looking for volunteer aides for the class, she talked me into signing up with her - she would take the class and I would be an aide and we could go together each week.

Then she found another ESL class with a more convenient location and better hours (relative to her work) and she bailed on me! But I had committed to the volunteer position, so all last (academic) year I went each week and did my best to help the teacher, Amy. And it was a challenge and a blast all rolled up into one, and my path was brightened a little more.

This led to my next crazy idea. Last Spring, as the ESL class was winding down for the year and the church organizing committee was planning for the Fall, I volunteered to lead my own class, focused on true beginners (as Amy's curriculum is geared more towards intermediate and advanced students).

So, here I am. Once again attempting to do something well outside of my comfort zone.

Once again, spending hours on the computer each week preparing for a 1.5 hour lesson.

Once again, making my plans, watching them collide head first with reality and stagger back into their corner, and going back to the drawing board to try to do better for the next time. ;)

Once again getting to know some pretty cool people and broadening my world and finding my own path is brightened even more. :)

I know it's not sewing-related, but I really want to write about this and I've discovered that I can't maintain 2 blogs (hence the periodic weaving-related posts), so I'm going to post updates about my ESL class on this blog once in a while. I'll post these them on Tuesdays so that, if you aren't interested, you will know that you can skip the entry. If you stay, I hope you enjoy the stories!

Photo credit: pratanti


meredithp said...

Wow, aren't you a glutton for punishment...er...trouper! That's such a wonderful story, how this all evolved. You amaze me!

In all my years in Florida, I always meant to learn Spanish, but never did. There's still time, and it's on my list, and being billingual is still a plus in the job market almost anywhere, but definitely in NC. But I also want to learn German and French (for sewing) too. I was pretty good at Russian during HS. Believe it or not, in Naples, FL we had a Russian immigré, whose parents fled the country with her (as an infant) during the Revolution. She was my teacher. It's all gone now...

Anyway, I admire the heck out of you for seizing these opportunities! Do they give you a curriculum at least? :-)

Becky said...

Very cool.

Trudy Callan said...

That is so neat that you are giving of your time in this way. I know you are growing so much and making a huge difference in the lives of these people. It's amazing how one little thing like become friends with the restaurant owner and sewing aprons for his kitchen staff can change your life.

Angela said...

That's very courageous of you!! Way to go!

Mrs. Kelley Dibble said...

What an inspiring post! I appreciated the share.

I found you after Summerset won your give-away!

I will beging sewing my younger daughter's wedding dress soon! Looks like April 30, 2011 is the day and my goal is to complete it by December 31. Any comments about that?

I will be following! You can contact me on my blog/e-mail address in my profile. Thanks!

Christiana said...

Amazing story. Congrats for stepping up to the plate and helping spread the joy of sewing. You'll never know what God has planned for you until you take that bold step and follow his lead.
Looking forward to hearing about your ESL adventures.