…are going to rule the World someday! Or, at least make an impact in their city. The Philippines is a country predominantly ran by women. Wow, how advanced, you might think, but unfortunately, it’s more out of necessity than actual “drive”. The women are the motivated ones, they want to see get things done, while the guys, sorry guys, would rather have fun. Of course there are exceptions, but this generalization holds true in our class on Saturday afternoons. I’ve absolutely loved getting to know this group of girls over the last few years, and even with the occasional language barriers (which are slowly disintegrating!), we have great times together, and with their diverse but strong personalities, I have complete faith in their influence on the future.
I think we all forget, myself included, that all the pictures we take of and with random cute kids, especially overseas, represent tons and tons of personalities, hopes, futures, and individual stories. All the cute, similar smiling faces in these pictures are as different as night and day, but they all have their place in his world, and God’s plan.
I joke that Rizal Mae is our own personal “Justice League”. Not just for herself, but for everyone else. If she feels that someone isn’t being treated fairly, whether it’s not getting an equal share during snack time, or not sharing the coveted green crayon, she speaks up. Rizal Mae lives a tough life. The oldest of several siblings, she usually does without so her younger brothers are taken care of. Her family has a very inconsistent income for several reasons, not just a lack of work. Hard realities for someone so young, but she already uses her life lessons to defend those who can’t or won’t defend themselves.
Katherine is fierce. She knows what she wants. The oldest of four kids, she is considerably smaller than her younger sister. Her reason? “I’m too picky about what I eat”. Sounds like something she’s heard from Mom once or twice. 😉 While most of the kids are learning English in school, she is the one bold enough to try and use it on a regular basis. At this point, she speaks English to me more often than not, and even though it’s not always perfect, she tries. Last Spring, Katherine spent 8 days in ICU battling dengue fever, a horrific, painful illness transmitted by mosquitoes. We didn’t find out she was in the hospital until the day she was being released, the other kids just said she was “sick”. We visited her anyways, and when talking to the nurses, we laughed as they summed her up perfectly. “She kept asking for paper and a pencil, saying she was bored”. Never mind the horrific physical pain and exhaustion she was battling, boredom was a far worse affliction to her.
Christine, also known as Katherine’s younger, taller sister, is the polar opposite. Barely talks above a whisper, and always has a beautiful smile. She is a peacekeeper, and I often see her diffusing squabbles between her more outspoken friends, even by actions as simple as sitting between them. She keeps tabs on their two younger brothers when they join class, one of whom struggles with behavioral and learning challenges (I am guessing he’s somewhere on the autism spectrum). Her patience and calm spirit amaze me.
Daisy is the resident comedienne. Another one who constantly has a grin, she seems to always be cracking herself up, even if it’s just inside her head. A while back, we did an activity in class to demonstrate communication, and how things can be interpreted by others. In small groups, one person would write a one phrase “scene” that the next person would illustrate. When it was my turn to write a phrase, I wrote something silly in Visayan, as more of a social experiment than anything. I handed it to the next person, with a deadpan expression and waited for the reaction. After a minute of silence, the girl I handed it to showed it to the other girls, they started whispering, and I knew exactly what they were thinking. They thought I had severely botched the language, but they were too embarrassed for me to correct me. Obviously, Katherine wasn’t in that group, because she would have told me. Loudly. As the whispering continued, Daisy began to giggle. Quietly at first, but then she couldn’t contain herself. “Joke lang!” (“Just a joke”) she finally yelled, and the other girls exhaled a huge sigh of relief. And of course, when Daisy’s turn came around, she had to write something equally as silly. And, now that the ice has been broken, she hasn’t stopped making us laugh since.
Mary Ann, Daisy’s big sister, usually has a toddler with her on Saturday afternoons. I think it’s a neighbor, and it’s her job to watch her. It’s evident that she’s not entirely thrilled with the arrangement, but she deals with it graciously. About half way through class, the little girl falls asleep in Mary Ann’s lap, and she sits and tenderly strokes her hair. That doesn’t mean she won’t jump at the chance to pass her off on one of us, but it’s so evident that she has a huge, nurturing soft spot.
Our other “nurturer” is Mary Grace. She brings her little sister to class, who also usually drifts off in her lap. She also brings a conga line of other kids with her. We jokingly call her our own personal missionary. When we started the Saturday class, the Oasis sponsored kids who were included were told they could each invite one kid, due to space constraints. Mary Grace is obedient and well behaved, but as she told us one day, “They always follow me to class! I just can’t tell them no!”. Her group of friends comes from the far edge of the neighborhood, have the best attendance, and honestly, are the best behaved out of all the kids. So, we can’t tell them no either! There are no other programs in their area of the neighborhood, so it’s easier to explain to the other kids why they are the “exception”. However, it’s never come up as an issue, I think the other kids like having them around.
Last but not least is little Edelweiss. The smallest of the group, she was as sweet and adorable as her name. Edelweiss passed away about three months ago from dengue, the same illness that Katherine defeated just a short time before. She was always the “little sister” to this group of girls, and it’s been a rough loss for us all. The girls mention her often, and I know they feel protective of her memory. A little more about this sweet girl here.
The balance of these personalities from outspoken to funny, sensitive to sweet, gives me hope for this neighborhood. I think as they grow and mature, no one will want to get in their way. Watch out!