The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

Not Helpless

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.

-Vienna, Austria

Istanbul children

8 comments on “Not Helpless

  1. Hereandthere40
    March 16, 2012

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful and touching experience.

    • My student is a survivor and a truly remarkable human being. I remain lucky to know him.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. ivan1971
    August 24, 2012

    Nicely written and very moving. I shall be a frequent visitor to this blog, I can see! Keep up the good work!

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      August 25, 2012

      Thanks! I’ll try to keep having nice adventures. The universe keeps sending them my way, it seems! Welcome!

  3. Reblogged this on The Nice Thing About Strangers and commented:

    A prayer for a friend today: “Only Love is Creative.” -Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

  4. stephenedwards425
    March 1, 2013

    Reblogged this on LifeRevelation and commented:
    You probably are not going to find any earth shattering, mind altering revelations in this post…but what you will find is the type of humble attitude of looking at life that produces rich results beyond what we can imagine…be encouraged!

  5. stephenedwards425
    March 1, 2013

    You have created a wonderful post about the simple in life…which is where we find the sublime and beautiful…thank you…be encouraged!

  6. jalal michael sabbagh.http://gravatar.com/jmsabbagh86@gmail.com.
    March 25, 2013

    Fabulous post ,inspiring thoughts.Thank you for liking my about.Wishing you the best.jalal

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