What makes the final day matter?
Lessons from teens teaching us how to make tortillas? From the harvesting of corn, to the adding of lyme before boiling and then the grinding by hand on the ancient Maya stone. Did I mention that every day, every member of the family eats four tortillas for each meal? Three meals a day, seven family members, that makes eighty-four tortillas per day. Every tortilla a perfect circle, exactly alike, flipped over three times on the wood stove, served hot with salt.
How about soft heat and warm cures? Every family builds a Temascal, a sauna, but not exactly a sauna, in the courtyard of the house. A base of stones, augmented by block or adobe until it reaches almost five feet high. River stones heated with special slow burning wood makes the heat build and build. A pot of water is heating. Feeling sick? Duck in for the cure, comes with special herbs. The grandparents know.
On the final day, every experience matters many times over. Minutes are scrutinized. Exchanges are sacred. One thing remains the same – every physical experience is a catalyst for emotional transformation. Transition. That’s the name of the game.
Yesterday was final day with our scholars and reading promoters. We gathered in a circle. We lit the candle of unity, of literacy, of community, of promise. Thirty-two of us held hands, lit candles, made commitments.
“I thank you for sharing this time with me.”
“This candle signifies the light and the hearts of the children.”
“We come from different countries. We speak different languages. We are the same. This work and our hearts connect us.”
And one by one we lit our candles and made our promises. We cast our nets into the ocean of possibility and cross our fingers against all odds that nobody comes up dry.
The Mayans tell a story about a bee, a little bee that is attracted to the nectar in a secret garden. The bee finds the honey and soars. Our world discovered a little bee today named Juanito. Really he found us. The younger sibling of some of our scholars, he showed up with a tight belt, a fresh shirt, and received a simple invitation, “Would you like to take a picture with my camera?” And just like that an eight-year-old boy from a tiny community in the hills above Lake Atitlan in Guatemala was transformed. Two-hundred-fifty photos later, the apprentice jumped down from his chair, pulled the strap from around his neck, handed the camera back to his mentor, and hugged her with a force as only a little bee can do.
The van pulled away, carrying us back to our lives (which feel forever away). Juanito untucked his shirt and wiped his tears. “Mi amiga se fue.” “My friend left.”
Oh Juanito, we cry together, she may have left in the van, but don’t you fret. This story is far from over. Our story is far from over.
Truth is, it has only just begun. Reading Village was never really about books, it’s always been about the people. The writers, the authors of their own stories. It is a project about reading, about literacy. But it is also a project about leadership, about connection, about learning, sharing, growing. Really, when you tear away all the layers and take a short cut to the truth – relationship is the flame of our work. Always has been, always will be.
I dream of the little bee. I saw the little bee today, soaring.
– Jan Snooks, Reading Village Board Member and Learning Journey Participant (three times over)