Peace Corps service is about cultural exchange, capacity building, building relationships, taking bucket baths, and having a great time. This service is not about getting accolades---but every once in awhile it's ever so nice to get a pat on the back, or to have a special interaction, especially when it's unsolicited and sincere. This past week, the interactions came in chunks of three, and they were the sweetest gifts I could've ever received.
First, one of my teen club members, Eric, came up to me during an afternoon break, put his arm around me, and started telling me that he's never met anyone like me before---that he thought, most of all, how encouraging I am to everyone, generous, funny, and telling me he'll never forget me. Eric went on for awhile before I stopped him and gave him a big kiss on the cheek---saying to him—Now you go and Pay it Forward! Oh, and Eric---I'll never forget you either!
Second, getting a photo here is huge, I mean huge! Most don't even have a baby picture of themselves. So I've been giving photos, 1x per month during our Friday assembly, as rewards to those that either have done something special, or to someone I just want to encourage. Last week I gave a photo to my friend and neighbor Stanley, who came running home after school, saying it was the best day of his life because all the girls thought the picture was so handsome. But a few days later, Stanley came over, with his now only photo of himself, and 3 photos of his dad who passed away when Stanley was 12 years old. Stanley wanted to show me the resemblance between he and his dad, and said “Tshepo, now I know who I am because of this photo.” Ok, is it time to cry yet? Stanley went on to tell me about his dad, and how he never spoke to anyone about him before, leaving him feeling alone and sick for months after the death. Communication in families is not the thing here---but on this day, Stanley poured his big heart out because of one little photograph. To sit with him was the real gift, and yes, Stanley---you are quite the handsome one!
You never know when, or if, you are making an impact on those around you, and even though I didn't need to hear these things, it's nice to know that when you give, you really do receive!