The following series of essays have been written while teaching ESL classes to adult students from all corners of the world (this writing exercise began in late January, and continues to be a part of my classes). Each morning, I required the first class – which was what inspired this project – to answer one of two questions. At first, I was the one to ask the questions, but I quickly turned it over to the students. Their questions ranged from simple, everyday things, like “Why are you studying English?” to complex philosophical questions, such as “What are the limits to freedom?” The class would write for an hour, and I would join them. We would listen to the Gypsy Kings, U2, Coldplay, Tango, and much more. Once we were through, we would read our responses aloud, and then have a conversation about each person’s analysis. It was humbling to hear from people from Saudi Arabia, Korea, Thailand, Turkey, and elsewhere. All our answers were motivated by a desire to convey an honest, open response, and everyone had an earnest desire to share with the others. A mentioned already, I continue to carry out this exercise with my new classes. It is a thrilling experience, and when I am away from the classroom during the weekend, all I can think about is this: “I can’t wait to be back at work on Monday, so that I can write with all of my students, and then share!”
No one who lights a lamp hides it away or places it [under a bushel basket], but on a lampstand so that those who enter might see the light. The lamp of the body is your eye. When your eye is sound, then your whole body is filled with light, but when it is bad, then your body is in darkness. Take care, then, that the light in you not become darkness. If your whole body is full of light, and no part of it is in darkness, then it will be as full of light as a lamp illuminating you with its brightness.The rest of this piece can be read here.
—Luke 12: 33 - 35
She used to believe that total self-sacrifice and the absolute commitment to another person was the right way to live. She did her best every day to hold up others, and as a result, she stopped tending to her own needs. She loved people so much, but she began losing herself. Day by day, it worsened. It was subtle, so it was hard for her to truly perceive the self-destructive path that she had determined—for complicated reasons—to traverse. Even worse, the person she tried to care for the most didn’t even see how much effort she put into tending to him. This lack of attention, and willful ignorance, made her very frustrated. In attempting to win his affection, she even became aggressive and had angry outbursts. These types of reactions were befuddling, and the more often they occurred, the further she got away from her true identity. Although he didn’t deserve her love, she clung hard to the idea that she needed to simply care for him even more, at the expense of everything else. As the path became bloodier, and her mind and body more battered, she had lost almost everything. Any semblance of self-respect and dignity were nearly eviscerated. She lost the world, and all of its loving inhabitants. Even though she loved all people deeply – as already mentioned – she found it increasingly difficult to do things for them, because she was devoting all of her energy and time to a person who did not notice her care. Sadly, this person couldn’t love himself properly, so her efforts to tend to him made him even sicker. She found herself trapped in bed a lot, too. Her life, once wide open and filled with endless possibilities, became enclosed. A small room became her only world – it smelled of animal urine and feces, and was infested constantly with tiny ants (they crawled all over her bed and her pillows), spiders (they clung to the corners of the poorly repainted room), and large roaches (they lived in the floorboards and registers). The only gifts she received were actually for him, from another woman. She foolishly thought that the plants this woman sent to her were a gesture of goodwill. Unfortunately, she would later learn that that was not the case. In any event, she thought that, since the person she cared for the most was there by her side, she should be content. So, even though she was trapped in this room, which she later realized was an actual prison (the only place of her own was her car, where she would often go to cry and ask God for help), she told herself that she should be grateful.