We get ready for kindergarten as if nothing has changed. I rush her out the door... "grab your mochila, your lunchera, don't forget to brush your hair...," i prattle on, the naggy mother trying to keep it all together. Since kindergarten started, her lanky legs have sprouted another three or four inches. She's growing faster than the Oregon grass that's gotten so long in my backyard. It's just another day, we so casual yet frenetic while we go about getting ready for another blessed foray into free education.
Out on the dividing line between the Atlantic and the Caribbean, on an island that's been called Ayiti since the time of the Taino, another little girl gets ready for kindergarten too. B is five; a quiet, diminutive little nymph with hair twisted into three or four sweet ponytails.
If they were side by side, B would be dwarfed by the Rebelangel; her spindly arms and short stature would fit the mold of a preschooler in the States. The Rebelangel, meanwhile, would match a third or fourth grader's stature, were she to go to school in Haiti.
There is a thread that ties these two children together, so far away from one another. They don't know it, but they are bound by my effort to keep a kindergartener thriving in school. In the rebelangel's case, all it takes is the effort to get her out of bed, her lunchbox packed, and the time it takes to drive her to school. The cost of her all-day kindergarten is not for me to worry about, and now, like no other time in my life, i am feeling so grateful for the wonder of public school. Yes, it has its troubles, (which is why i spend a few evenings a month dabbling in the doings of the PTA) but this child can READ, and sing, and play, and do mathematics, thanks to her wonderful bilingual school -- and it costs me nothing.
For B too i am making an effort toward her education, though it has nothing to do with packing her daily lunch. Her parents, who i have come to know during my time in Haiti, are the hardworking sort; her father toils up a mountain every day to teach school, and preaches at a nearby church every Sunday. When a family friend lost their child, they paid for the child's funeral because the child's parents could not. This, at the expense of being able to pay their own child's kindergarten tuition.
If this doesn't tear at your heartstrings, i don't know what could. So you can guess what i did.
I am paying for B's tuition for the year, so that her wonderful parents don't have to worry. You could scoff at me for being so rash, when my gas bill needs paying and the food is dwindling in the cupboard. But for ten hours (or less) of my work time, I have seen that a little girl -- and especially girls need it in Haiti -- gets a chance at an education.
So when i'm packing the Rebelangel's lunch in the morning, i am now also sending hugs to B, and hoping she's kicking her spindly legs in happiness, all the way to the schoolyard...
(I don't mean to use this blog as a means to solicit you for cash, but if you are inspired by this story, you could help too! Check out www.noramise.org for more information on the organization i'm working with, doing direct action with the people in Haiti. You can make a difference, with just a few hours of your own work time.)