Third lesson of the morning with the grade 11 chartered accountant class: Business Management hour. I am in charge of giving the students very sad news – the two-year old son of a former teacher, on a mission for the poor in Brazil, died in a small lake near the house where they used to live. The whole school is shocked by the event. The students ask me whether it’s possible to do something for the teacher and without any hesitation I put myself at the disposal to understand what to propose.
We are not in the age of Internet nor of WhatsApp and calling from Brazil is extremely expensive. Moreover, it’s really hard for missionaries to reach a telephone line. Therefore, you need to write: in 40 days we manage to both send a letter and receive its reply, where the possible ways to support the mission of little Stefano’s family are very accurately described.
You can either offer a few hundred thousand liras (Italian currency before Euro) or million liras – the project changes according to the amount of donation: from a simple bed to equipment to build a carpentry.
The idea of fundraising across the parish begins to take shape. The initiatives are several and the most diverse: flower sale, car wash, bake sale, selling of patchwork. Hence, there is no shortage of suggestions.
The grade 11 class decides to join as a whole. Everyone of them, but for Annalisa: she is the only one to communicate her unavailability, through silence. I feel that silence as a punch in the gut: how is it possible to react with indifference to such a deep tragedy?
I know Annalisa enjoys dancing, as some of her fellow students reported that she is a go-go dancer. I therefore begin to project our society’s ills on that girl, on the family, on this culture that makes everything, even the death of a child, indifferent.
I’d like to manifest my reflections, but I feel it useless and, above all, they can be grounded in opinions and not in real facts. Therefore, I shut up.
This was the scenario, but I needed to understand how I could act. I had an helper, the science teacher, Sister Laura, who had a very special relationship with the students. She was able to make the students catch the value of science through her proof of faith: a great living oxymoron!
We organised all the activities on a March Sunday. It was a remarkable day as more than fifty students coming from the different parishes joined: we managed to earn more than ten million liras.
The carpentry project was essentially a done deal.
The students’ enthusiasm and the operation success really surprised the missionary family and, in one of the letters from Brazil, they wrote us that they felt deeply grateful for the initiative we realised and for its success: the carpentry would rise soon after.
I had already forgot that silence.
I had decided not to judge that girl and her situation. I continued to be the usual teacher also for her.
The school year ended and Sister Laura, during the school board meeting, told us that Annalisa had decided to spend two months in Argentina with the Sisters, to help the poor children. I asked her to repeat the name as I couldn’t believe it. Without any hesitation Sister Laura repeated it and I kept silent.
I blessed the value of my silence, when, long before, I had been tempted by the idea of pointing out to the class, thinking indeed to Annalisa, that disengagement and indifference are two bad plagues of our contemporary society to be defeated…
But Annalisa’s silence was not indifference or detachment: it was a reflective silence.
The adult time and the kid time often do not correspond. The adult needs to have the patience of waiting.
Waiting for is an active conjugation of the verb to wait, that expresses inside itself a passive behaviour.
If I await, I don’t know the time, I don’t know the reason, I don’t know whether a determined thing can happen.
During the waiting for something, conversely, only the time is uncertain, as the event is sure.
Our heart nervously waits for the meeting with the lover.
Our mind impatiently awaits that a situation changes.
Awaiting makes us angry and frustrated.
Waiting for something gives us hope and trust.
During that class, Annalisa had decided not to talk, not to adhere and, probably, not feeling judged allowed her to reach new ideas, new beliefs, new values.
Annalisa has wealthy parents, they live in a house with a pool and are always elegantly dressed. They were surprised by Annalisa’s choice: to some extent, they tried to hinder her, to prevent her from leaving.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it the psalm states, and Annalisa made her choice: she decided to live in Argentina.
Annalisa is a teacher in Argentina and lives with her partner, obviously Argentinian.
Now a reflection comes to my mind – it’s a sort of recurring reflection – about our condition of teachers: how many labels do we put on students?
Teachers become judges: they pronounce sentences.
Then, at the conviction, labels are well highlighted.
At the time of discharge, teachers even forget their sentence.
I saw too many damages on those who are not able to take off the label from the student’s face.
I saw too many conflicts over time due to these labels.
When I trusted someone, however, the label was removed and, by virtue of that trust, a new season of relationships could born.
Less labels and more trust for a good teacher-student relationship.
Annalisa lives in Argentina, she teaches Italian and, even though she keeps on dancing, she’s not a go-go dancer anymore.
Head of GSO School