Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Back to basics in Beit Jala

I used to be a Teacher – for both Primary and Middle School age ranges at various points. I was a Music Co-ordinator in one and a Special Needs Teacher in the other. I loved teaching – enjoying the joy and exuberance of musical performances, the delight on the faces of children when they finally ‘got it’ after struggling for a while (and then watching them explain it to someone else!), or finding new ways of assisting a child to ‘work around’  situation swhen they were being harassed or harried by others.

Had I not been recommended for training for Ordination, I think my path would have gone towards becoming an Educational Psychologist, a Specific Learning Needs Teacher or a Psychotherapist. Something of this call to walk alongside others is borne out in Ministry, and it was something that I expressed at one of the earliest sessions we had at Theological College. “What is your strapline?” we were asked. “How would you sum up your call?” For me it was hard to express and always has been – but it has something to do with being the one who accompanies others along life’s rich and delightful and challenging way. It is about being the one who is alongside (even if the person doesn’t know it), the one who witnesses and who watches, the one who is willing to give time and to say (often without words), “You are worth me giving you this time and this space and this energy that is mine”. To be able to do this is a rare privilege.

Thus it is that I felt called to be here at Beit Jala. In the four small rooms that offer sanctuary to children in need – as well as their family and friends – the children have a bed to sleep on whilst the parents (usually the mother, but not always) each have a mattress that, each night, is put on the floor having been propped up against the wall during the day. Long days with their children who are from all over the Palestinian Territories, with all sorts of needs – some able to communicate but all, some mobile but not all, some able to go home at weekends but not all. Part of why I am here is to say in some small way that someone can be bothered. You are worth bothering with and your children are worth bothering with. For this very short period of time I am happy to come and play with them, to work with them, to teach them and let them laugh at me when I don’t know the Arabic for chair or water or hello. This evening, long after I ‘finished’ for the day and have been on google translate and other websites that will translate Arabic into roman lettering so that I can have a stab at pronouncing some words, I have been on the Ward to play games with one of the children – which actually turned into four of the children. The mothers looked on, glad of a bit of respite, and I am happy to be with these children who have little idea of what I am saying when I say, “Now it is my turn!” but who are delightful to watch when they copy my actions for ‘thinking and looking’ when we are playing memory games.

The children won’t have any idea of why I am here – I imagine they will simply be glad someone is willing to play with them. The Play and Drama Therapist I am working with noted that one child who usually throws things around actually ‘worked’ relatively calmly with me this afternoon (this was only once I had worked out that we simply needed to play and be rather than ‘learning’ in any formal sense. The wise ones amongst you will know that playing is very important too!)

So for this couple of weeks, here I am, with these children and these parents and these staff members in this place where good work is being done and somehow I hope they will intuit the ‘message’ that someone (in this instance me) is here to accompany them along life’s rich and delightful and challenging way. Someone is here to be alongside, witnessing and watching, willing to give time and to say (without words), “You are worth me giving you this time and this space and this energy that is mine”. To serve you in this way is rare privilege.

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