Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
I was trudging home from an English lesson with my astounding student, an asylum seeker and former child soldier from Sierra Leone who had the most remarkably shy smile. He could speak English well, but he was now learning to read and to write. He knew the Qur’an by heart, but from the first day he had to concentrate to write his own name. Given his love for the Chelsea soccer club, this was another of the first words he labored to write during our sessions.
On that particular day he’d talked about a time when he could go home, become a good leader to the people of his country. This was by far the most ambitious dream he’d voiced. Most of the time he talked about finding a kind wife and starting a family, and then teaching his children to play soccer. The explanation of it always put a lump in my throat. Such a simple dream made almost impossible as he waited year after year for on a decision about his asylum case.
As I made my way home, I went through the usual frustration about feeling helpless to provide him much more than an hour of distraction each week. An elderly woman approached with a toddler in a stroller, coming down the sidewalk toward me, directing the child’s attention as they moved. “Is that a tree or a flower?” “A tree!” “Is that a woman or a girl?” “A woman!” I would like to have been called a girl, seen as so terrifically young, but I still smiled at them as they moved on to the next objects. “Is that a bicycle or a motorcycle?” And so on.
I stopped in a shop to continue my hunt for wide-lined writing paper without cartoons on the front. I wanted to give our lessons some age-appropriate dignity. I wanted to show him I was also grateful for the chance to sit with him and hear his hopes for the future. Maybe our first steps are always small ones. Even these do seem to lead us somewhere.