"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."
As a part of my service at the Caroline Center we are asked to participate in weekly discussions on Facebook. The first discussion question asked us to share a quote that inspires us. This is not the one I chose; I had not heard it before. Another girl posted it and it has become ingrained in my mind and soul ever since. It is a quote by Mother Teresa, a woman whose accomplishments and compassion seem to give her the ability to hold the world on her shoulders. I would consider her to have done “great things,” but it’s true, actually, that she did small things—but to them she devoted her life and her heart. No individual person can change the world but, with hope, someday the trickledown effect of goodness will reach enough people to begin to make change. Mother Teresa’s legacy lives on in the works of us small people who try every day to make a difference.
I try to remember this when I am with the children at Guilford or the women at the Caroline Center. When I am driving down Greenmount Avenue and see the men and women casually gesturing their index and middle fingers downwards towards the street followed by them entering a knowing car as it passes by I think about the places where the children and women are coming from. They have already taken the first step to overcoming poverty by becoming enrolled in their respective schools. Their chances of success rise with every day they make the decision to wake up in the morning and come to school. The children stay after to study for their academic challenges; the women stay session after session and complete their work at home. Our presence has become an equally integral part of their success. Just as they show up every day, so must we. Of course, they do not depend on us—they could get by with just the teacher as far as learning the material, but each day we show up acts as reassurance. They have learned our names, they get excited when we arrive, the children specifically ask to be quizzed by me instead of the teacher and we have become a sort of family within the walls of the classroom. Our faces have become a part of the weekly routine and the day we do not show up will be more than just one or two less tutors. We have become their advocates and their cheerleaders and not showing up is like giving up. The determination to come to class needs to be stronger than the pressure to not attend and if we don’t go, what kind of example does that give? Just the small act of showing up when we are supposed to with a smile on our face, happy to be there, is enough to start the trickledown effect. We don’t go because we have to, we go because we want to.