It’s 3:30pm, and one by one the children from my Khan Academy math class start entering the room. It is difficult to express how sweet it feels when little Gita, or one of the other children pauses before entering, asking, “May I come in, brother?” “Of course you can, sweetheart” I reply, “You never have to ask to come in here.” Ten children, both boys and girls of varying ages and mathematical abilities come in, sit down, log in and begin their work. The work is self-paced and mastery based, allowing the students to work at their own speed. They practice skills until they display that they truly understand the topic at which point the topic is put to rest. Myself and the other “coaches” in the room often sit down and offer assistance, supplementing the video tutorials available. We have 20 kids in the classes but starting tomorrow we’ll double that and add another 10 again shortly.
I am so in love with these kids. They are a breath of fresh air to me in how much they want to learn, and in the general sweetness of their demeanor. As I have now reached one month here in Nepal with the 140+ children of the Nepal Orphans Home, I am struck by the fact that I have yet to witness one argument, one fight, one slap, one tear, one sporting dispute, or heard even a single child snap at another. I find I have no real explanation. My best guess is that Nepal is simply a gentle soft-souled country. Beyond that, I can suspect that Michael, the American born founder of this home, has somehow instilled a sense of love and respect among the children. Perhaps joy and pleasantness is simply our human nature and somehow with these children, that native hue hasn’t been sicklied o’er by the pale cast of western society. I don’t know if I’ll ever understand, but whatever the reasons, my heart is touched and feels very soft, happy, and relaxed here among them.
What makes this sweetness all the more inexplicable is that each of these children comes from their own uniquely very difficult early life experience. Many here are truly orphans, but many others come from lives of early indentured servitude, extreme poverty, or somehow or another being cast adrift from their families and communities. Many too were brought to NOH by the government’s social system, rescued from other nefariously run orphanages. As I am not naive to the emotional impacts of separation and/or abandonment in a developing child’s life, what doesn’t make sense to me is how so many can come from such ill-begat settings and yet universally, or so it appears, develop into such beautiful, gentle-souled beings. No surly, video-game playing kids here, and certainly no cranky “I don’t want to eat that” children, even though dinner rarely if ever varies here night by night.
I recognized something about love many years ago and lately I’ve been feeling it here. While we often give the credit for our love to the object of our affection, the truth as I have come to know it is that love is completely our own, and it is in relation to another that we come to experience that love. So many times during the day, I feel love for these kids, but what I especially appreciate is this: the love that is inherent in me is getting a chance to express itself. It’s like I get to know myself through my own love, which is brought to the fore through connecting with and being supportive of these children. It is truly a blessing.
As to being here and implementing this program, it honestly feels like the first time in many years where I’ve been excited about my work. I may not be getting paid, but it still feels very much like work in terms of commitment and effort. Six days a week in fact as the only day the kids (and therefore I) get off is Saturday. When work has meaning, challenge, creativity and heartful contact, it’s a great combination, a perfect storm for satisfaction.
Today at lunch, some children were telling me how they want me never to leave. Believe me it is very tempting, and at a minimum I am certain I’ll be back. I’ll definitely miss these kids though while I’m away and their inexplicable sweetness. (I took this picture below on Valentine’s Day, a day of very special celebration among the children here). I climbed up on a rickety unstable table and did my best to entertain them with my best wobbly-kneed photographer impression. I feel so loved here. I hesitated to write that because it sounded trite, but the truth is I actually do feel loved here. I followed the callings of my heart and look what I found!