I feel supremely happy. It was a phrase that hit me the other afternoon. I’ve been helping establish an online mathematics program here in Kathmandu for an orphanage (Nepal Orphan’s Home) of 140 or so kids (approx 110 girls and 30 boys). We’ve been starting slowly, the first day with 4 girls, added 2 boys the next day and have continued upward. The progress is controlled but good and we’ll continue to expand as we work through design issues, various technical hurdles and acquiring more technical and space resources. The children we are working with are responding very positively. They seem truly hungry to learn. As I don’t understand the culture here all that well, it’s hard for me to know whether it’s an inner drive for improvement, a desire to succeed, a need for recognition, a wish to do better in school, a love of math, some combination of the above, or something else entirely. The Khan Academy makes learning/math much more fun than drudgery and I think the kids are responding to that well.
Anyway, I’m happy. My heart is happy. I love being in a classroom with kids and being supportive and encouraging. When I give in direct connection to others, especially children, there is a sense of liberation, of emancipation within me. The feeling is one of a burden being lifted; removing wet clothes, unshouldering a heavy pack, taking off my boots, and sipping some fresh spring water.
I’ve made a good choice in coming to here too. Essentials for the children such as meals, education, housing, and clothing are provided, but more importantly there is a sense of love and belonging that infuses this place. Although the orphans attend a local private school, my hunch says that they are actually proud to be known among their non-orphan classmates as part of NOH.
Michael (aka Papa) who runs the place is a dear man. Yesterday, and everyday after lunch at the school, the children lined up according to which of the 4 NOH homes they live in and Michael personally greeted each one on the way out; a handshake, “hi son,” and individual eye contact with each boy, and a high five or handshake and a spoken acknowledgment with each girl. All people, but kids especially, have an innate and very human need to been seen and loved and Michael seems to do his best as a parent figure to provide the individual recognition and attention that is needed. After I high-fived him on the way out, he turned to me and said quite sincerely, “I’m indebted to you.” “I’m indebted to you,” I told him in return, to which he declinedly gently shook his head. I don’t think he saw, but I teared up as I walked away.
It matters to me that I am of use. There is a sense that something closer to my entirety is being utilized. In my life, one piece or another is generally put to use and I often feel a bit segmented. I’m left to consistently attempt to assemble a collage which effectively represents myself. Here, a broader range of my capacities (organization, creative and technical) are utilized, but most importantly my heart gets to be engaged in working directly with the kids and also in providing something of supportive use for others.
After I walked out of the KA class yesterday afternoon, I emerged onto the street where a boy-to-manhood ceremony was passing by with horns and assorted fanfare. Apparently a ceremonial haircut is involved somewhere along the way. Another volunteer was taking some photos of the festivities and I turned to her and said uncharacteristically, “Can you take a picture of me?” and further explained that “I’m supremely happy.” I simply wanted to document for myself what I look like when such happiness overtakes me. The image at the top of this post comes from that moment.
Every moment of my day may not be filled with joy, but sometimes, and here much more often than elsewhere in my life, a wave of pure happiness ripples through me and I am left simply to smile and appreciate.