Tuesday, October 15, 2013

All kinds of people

at Two Writing Teachers!
She doesn't even ask anymore if I'll be around after school. Now, she just shows up with an armful of books, grinning.

Almost every afternoon, we sit in my classroom: her dark hair hidden beneath an intricately decorated hijab, my blond hair partially tucked back with a barrette. Her Bengali accent gently lifts her words up and down; my steady American speech sounding flat by comparison. We furrow our brows over biology and chemistry, wade through pages of history, and dive eagerly into writing. Chats about books and classes morph into discussions of families, culture, government, and values. Gritted teeth and stress give way to giggles and smiles.

"I like to be around all kinds of people," she often tells me, as we discuss America or school.  

Lately, she's been teaching me about Eid Al-Adha and how her family prepares. I can't imagine having to do so much cleaning, cooking, shopping, and visiting in the midst of homework, and studying -- let alone actually having to miss school for the big day!  What would it be like if Christmas was just a normal day in a normal week of school?  I know the stress I see on her face would bubble up inside me as well.  However, that doesn't stop her eyes from lighting up with animated anticipation as she chatters away.

"You should come to my house for Eid!" she exclaimed one day last week.
"Really? I'd be honored... Check with your family, though!"
The next day, she walked into my class beaming. "My mom says you can come!"

So I asked what clothes I should wear ("just your normal clothes") and I started to read about the holiday. I'm captivated by the spirit of generosity that permeates the celebration, and I'm fascinated that it has its roots in that story about Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. I learned that story in Sunday school. How can so many wars have been fought between people who share the same stories?

When it comes right down to it, all kinds of people have a lot more to bring us together than to separate us. H. knows that, because she sees people's hearts.  With students like her building the future, I hope a lot more holiday celebrations will look like the one I'm attending tonight: all kinds of people being human together.


  1. I love that you've been invited for Eid. How special. I hope you'll slice about it when the time comes.

  2. I hope you enjoy your time! What a privilege!

  3. How exciting to get to be a part of this evening celebration of your student! If only more people would realize there is more than one way to worship. Have a great evening!

  4. How cool that you are invited to celebrate with her family! Friends of ours hosted an Islamic student from Indonesia. Like you, I was surprised that so many wars have been fought between two groups who share much in common.

  5. How wonderful is this moment? I love how you wrote the details and captured the lilt of her speech in the rhythms of the piece. I can't wait to hear about Eid!

  6. Thanks for the kind thoughts, everyone! It certainly was a special privilege. I just got back, and it was a wonderful and fascinating evening, full of kindness and new flavors. Can't wait to write more about it another day!

  7. I will be waiting eagerly to hear about Eid at your student's home. I actually have three days off because of Eid! The voice of your students sounds so similar to mine. And you are right, we have people fought so many wars over beliefs that all have the same stories. Perhaps one day we will understand.

  8. It sounds like a beginning of a special relationship, Jennifer. How nice for you both, and I hope you have a good time at this student's home. I love your ending and this: "How can so many wars have been fought between people who share the same stories?" I wish we all could ask this question, often!


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