Someone said that misery shared is misery halved, but joy shared is joy doubled. I certainly think that’s true, and one of my favorite things about this place is how easy it is to share joy. All I have to do is smile or wave in the general direction of some children and I get an instant return on my investment.
So if sharing joy is doubling it, than what do you get when you share the joy of sharing joy? Joy times six? Joy cubed? Infinity joy?
In other words, today was really a good day.
Of course, it didn’t start out well. After congratulating myself on not getting sick, I woke up with a thick, persistent nausea. As I dragged myself to the breakfast table I practiced my delicate decline…only to be confronted by a supremely cheerful Auntie Della with an ominously loaded plate of eggs and toast—something I could not refuse without giving offense. I did manage to convince her I wanted plain black tea (for the love of God, no milk and sugar!) which, going by the look on her face and how many times she asked me if I was sure, was clearly poison.
After my heroics at breakfast I shuffled back to my room, telling myself fiercely to suck it up and get ready for my advanced art class—I only have a few days with these kids before school starts again, and I can’t afford to miss anything! I didn’t listen. Instead I laid down and wallowed in the full extent of my misery. As a result I was less than prepared when class started, which led to a less than organized session, which resulted in a less than happy Meagan.
My next class was my teachers, the ten or so teenage girls who volunteered to help me teach the younger kids during the holidays. I had all kinds of ideas about lesson plans and discussion groups, but I was feeling defeated, so I flopped down in a chair and said, “Okay, you’re in charge!”
The girls quickly came up with several fun crafts to do with the recycled paper and crayons that we had, including an ingenious little fan toy that was completely new to me (how to coming soon!). The first group of children soon arrived, and I sat back to watch what would happen.
At first, the girls taught as they have been taught, standing up while their students were sitting, speaking sternly, and harshly reprimanding their students for their mistakes. The atmosphere in the room was depressed, and even though the students made the project successfully, they didn’t seem to be having much fun. After the first group left, we huddled for about 15 minutes and I told them what I saw. We talked about being at the same level, about smiling, about tone of voice. We talked about noticing when students are doing something right, and correcting gently when they’re doing something wrong. They understood almost instantly—they know how it feels to be supported by a teacher and how it feels to be belittled, and they got really excited about giving a good experience to the younger kids.
I just about burst my buttons watching them teach the second and third groups of children for the day. Everywhere I looked I saw smiling faces, and all around me I heard, “Yes, very good!” and “Here, try it this way,” and “I like the way you are doing this because of this.”
In one of the groups we had fewer children, so I let two of the teachers loose with the iPhones the fine fellows over at DIY.org generously let me borrow for this trip. I had to sort through a lot of blurry photos and shaky videos, but I was left with dozens of gems—intimate moments that a big person like me never would have been able to capture.
Now, at the end of the day, I find myself in the strange position of being thankful for the sickness that got me out of the way so the girls could shine. Of course, now that I’ve learned my lesson, I would like it to go away please, but I’ve shared that misery with you, so it is less, and nothing compared to my doubled, cubed, infinity joy.