“I did exactly what you told me”

she said. “I sounded out the words like you said and then I heard the letters in my head and now I can spell the words.” With that she spelled the sentence, “I am at the zoo.”

It may sound simple to you,  but to me, to her mother, to her and to the kids around her, it is huge. This little girl made a choice two weeks ago. She chose to learn, to thrive and rise as high as she can. She chose to do what makes her proud instead of what other kids are doing. She chose to sacrifice some play time to learn, not only how to spell, but how to thrive. She chose to let the light that was inside of her shine as bright as it can.

I am so blessed because I get to bear witness to it. I am blessed because in that moment she confirmed that no matter how simple the message, no matter how small the moment, it can change people. For me, it changed things. It confirmed my life should be led by meaning, it should be lived with purpose.

There are no words to thank this little girl for the work she has put in, the faith she has given to me to teach her, or the light she and her classmates fill me with each day. They each show me what it means to choose to live amidst the hard things and to find beauty, friendship and strength. They sit in class covered in sweat, some of them hungry, and thirsty, often with no bathroom available in the school, no desk space to write on and they try really hard.

I could not be a luckier person. Not because I get to teach them, or I get to give back, but because they teach me. I think that is a meaningful life, when what you do makes a difference, not just to those you are helping, not just to the world, but also to you. I will never be the same person and for that I am truly thankful.

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