Building relationships with young children comes naturally to me. When you fall somewhere in the middle of thirteen grandchildren, you try to define your role within the family- do I hang out with the ‘big kids’ or the younger ones? I never really picked one or the other, but I certainly learned how to care for and play with children from all of our times at family parties, outings and vacations. So, initially, I was most comfortable with the younger children at Our Lady of Grace, those students in Class 5 and younger. They were ‘easy’- a smile brightens their day and is met by another glowing smile and warm handshake. I had to work a bit harder with the older students, as would anyone.
Given the nature of the lives of the Secondarians at OLG, most are a bit hesitant to open up and trust a stranger. Rather than force conversation on anyone or pry into someone’s life, I turned to drum lessons. I asked a young woman in Form 4 if she would be willing to teach me to play the drum they use during Sunday Mass. She enthusiastically agreed and drum lessons commenced. Everyday at 4:00 p.m., give or take 30 minutes, we meet, attempts drum lessons, and usually end up talking about life and her future. Now, when I walk over to her dorm area, all of her neighbors welcome me, call her name and tell me about their day. Sometimes we have drum lessons, sometimes we have life lessons, but organic ones. We discuss relationships, self-respect and confidence, but we do so by “Turning to One Another” in the way in which Margaret Wheatley describes in her book, “Turning to One Another.” http://turningtooneanother.net/
In one of the stories Meg Wheatley shares of her time in South Africa, a woman who had been scarred by the apartheid years gave Wheatley a reality check as she stated, “I don’t need you to fix me. I just need you to listen to me.” The young women in the Secondary school seem to have a similar, albeit unspoken, request to be listened to and heard, for the first time in a while. Drum lessons allow me to humble myself, to allow Esther to be my ‘teacher,’ while we both learn from each other in different, yet equally profound ways.