Friday, October 10, 2014

Sealing the Envelope and Placing the Stamp - You Just Never Know When A Life Lesson Will Occur

I had the honor of being asked to Central Middle School in Greenwich yesterday in celebration of their reading of Outcasts United by Warren St. John - a book adapted to middle school readers. The text, both the advanced and youth versions, was selected as an Everyone Reads book for 2014. As a result, I am doing presentations at various schools. It was rather serendipitous that the work I've done since 2001 led me to this particular text and that Connecticut schools are teaching the stories of relocated refugees.

Yesterday, however, I brought Chitunga Chisenga with me so he could share his story of relocating from the Congo to the United States when he was in 5th grade. He quickly became a hero to the young men and women and they were anxious to learn about his experiences, especially as a student in the United States.

On a map, Greenwich is only 32 miles away. On I-95 traffic, however, that means 2 and a 1/2 hours stuck in traffic. The two of us didn't think we'd ever get there and the stagnating steal and exhaust was, well, exhausting. We made it, however, and the conversations hosted over three periods was very successful. All of us in attendance learned.

After we left, Chitunga informed me of his daily plans which included an interview at 2 that I drove him to, but also the mailing of his college applications. Granted, he was already accepted in many and he studies late into the night so he has opportunities to get into more, but he delayed his first year because of circumstances out of his control. He told me we needed to go to the post office, so I stopped.

When we arrived I asked him, "What do you need to mail?" He showed me the recommendations I printed out for him and other forms. I asked, "Why didn't you tell me at home? I have envelopes and stamps?" He says, "I've never had to mail anything a day in my life."

He wondered where he was supposed to put the college address. This was an easy lesson. The more humorous lesson, though, was when he asked, "How do I seal the envelope?" I told him, you need to lick the film so it sticks.

He looked at me like I was crazy, but then acted with a serious face and concentrated on putting saliva to the paper. He sealed his mail on his own.

I am leaving today thinking about how much of a hero Chitunga was to the American middle schoolers and what a tremendous impact he's had on my life and those of my friends and colleagues. But then the simple act of mailing an application reminded me of all the cultural intricacies we take for advantage (and makes me wonder what the heck our schools are doing?).

I'll rap the day up, though, as a win/win all the way around. It truly does feel good to work with young people on global issues and to advocate for the lives of first-generation Americans and what they desire for themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment