And I’m not mad about it. In fact, I embrace what has been stolen from me.
I know it sounds cliché, but these children have stolen my heart.
You know how when you fall in love, and then you know that for the rest of your life you will see everything as a connection to that person with whom you fell in love? Or you know that a certain food will always remind you of that one date or the last time you saw that person? Or that for the rest of your life there will always be a small part of you that will forever be with that person?
Multiply that feeling by 48, and that’s how many tiny pieces of my heart will forever be in Jinotega. These children have shown me there is nothing more beautiful or more precious than a child’s love.
They have made me incredibly proud in numerous ways. I have been with them through struggles and victories. I have heard, “Teacher, no,” and, “I can’t,” so many times. My heart has warmed with every smile after I reply with “yes you can,” or “I will help you.” I have been present while the magic of learning has happened. I have seen this magic happen. Light bulb moments aplenty in the classroom are just a small fraction of the amazing time I have spent here.
I accompanied 46 beautiful, incredible people to Managua so they could see potential opportunities in life. I saw the wonder in their eyes and heard the questions they had prepared that made them sound much more like adults than the children they are. It is so hard to describe how tear-jerkingly miraculous it has been to see a student that was once disruptive and disrespectful turn around and start to listen and participate in class just because one scientist told him he was smart.
I have heard these students encourage and teach each other. I have helped one student and heard him immediately helping the student to his left who didn’t understand the assignment. I have admired the humor these children bring to the classroom and been astonished at the amount of sarcasm (in English!) that pours out of their mouths. I have gotten to know 48 superstar personalities encapsulated in 48 beautiful minds and bodies.
For the rest of my life, even if for some (terrible!) reason I can never come back here, these children will be with me. I will hear a laugh and think of Arielka, I will see bright green eyes and imagine Brandy. I will hear a sarcastic comment or purposely mispronounced word and think of Jovani and his incredible sense of humor. Or maybe I’ll see a child with ears way too big for his head and think of Jamil or Cristofer B.. I have been changed by these children and this city.
I repeat: these children have stolen my heart. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.