Lessons From A First Grader
I have taken up residency in the Windy City and Mission Year has finally materialized. Before I dive into what it’s like being here, y’all need context. So let’s get some of the logistics out of the way first.
1. I live in Southside Chicago (West Englewood) in an apartment with nine people…And I love them all!
2. I work full time at an after school program called By The Hand Club For Kids where I teach 1st graders.
3. I go to a super awesome church in my neighborhood called Canaan Community Church where we have some hype worship time, incredibly friendly people, and a fantastic pastor.
4. My purpose here is to build relationships with people in my community, be hospitable, invest in my neighborhood, live in solidarity with my neighbors and housemates, and learn to adapt to the culture of the Southside with God at the center of it all.
5. I only call myself a “missionary” when I am trying to be fancy.
6. I really like the pizza here.
Alright, now that you are officially in the loop we can dive into the good stuff.
Since the move to Chi-town I have been learning a lot about the power of prayer. In the past, I knew prayer was good and I liked having the freedom to communicate with God but it was often an afterthought, something I did occasionally and without much effort. However, making the move to Chicago by myself and being thrown way out of my comfort zone has almost forced me to cling to God for stability. Prayer has become like food for me here. I feel like I give so much of myself and my spirit away throughout the day as I am serving that I need prayer to fill me back up. My time with God in the mornings have been some of the most sacred and rewarding moments I have had during my time here. A lot of that prayer time is spent lifting up the kids I work with.
There is a first grader in my class who gets along with me really well. We will call him Tyrone (not his real name). Tyrone is a bit of a trouble maker, but he’s adorable so it’s difficult to be mad at him for that. He doesn’t like to listen to authority, he tends to distract other students by acting out, and overall he has trouble following directions and sitting still for more than five seconds at a time. Nonetheless this little boy has become one of my favorite students at By The Hand. Am I allowed to pick favorites? …Oh well, it’s true. Tyrone gets really excited when he sees me and gives me a hug every single day. He always asks me to help him with his homework and is constantly telling me stories (most of which I know are not true) but I listen intently anyway and act like it is the most interesting thing I’ve heard all day.
Last week I asked Tyrone, “Did you have a good day at school today?” He nodded and said “Yeah! I didn’t even get suspended!” I laughed and said, “That’s great buddy! I prayed that you would have a good day today!” He got all wide-eyed and excited and asked, “You did?” I was touched by the expression of gratitude on his face. The next day I asked Tyrone again, “How was school today?” And he eagerly replied, “Great! Did you pray for me?” I said, “I sure did, little dude!” On the third day I didn’t even have to ask. The second Tyrone saw me the first thing he said to me was, “Miss Maddie, guess what! I know you prayed for me because I had a great day at school!”
What a privilege it is to pray for this little boy. A child with gratitude so pure and innocent that he considers a day when he didn’t get suspended to be a blessed one. Tyrone has taught me the power of prayer, the excitement of prayer, the joy of prayer.
While working with inner-city kids can be challenging, it is also extremely rewarding. These kids are hungry to learn about God. They are excited to have people care for them and show up for them consistently. I am so blessed to be appointed as one of those people.
Image credit: Death to the Stock Photo
Maddie Pauquette is a current Mission Year Chicago team member and is originally from Van Wert, OH. Learn more by visiting her donation page or blog.