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This is Life

April 24, 2012
Ishmael

Ishmael stops to say “Hallo, Autie RB!” every time he passes. Love that kid. Here he is after school one day.

I don’t have any exams today so I resolved to take the day off.  Last night I was up until 1:00am again, sending email and finishing typing my mock WAEC.  I really need to stop staying up so late.  It’s just… nice.  No one is peaking in the window.  No one is screaming my name or asking for books and food.  This morning I allowed myself to lie in bed and read until 9:00.  Yada yelled incessantly when Momie came by with bread but I just turned up the radio, “Not today.  Not today.”

Not five minutes after I opened the door four students approached.  They always fool me, sitting at a neighbor’s house and waiting for me to unsuspectingly emerge.  I lit the fire and looked at their applications.  They are trying so hard but really just don’t know.  When asked about the most important challenge he’d overcome one had written about breaking his arm as a child.  They are 20-year-olds living in Liberia.  They grew up during the conflict.  They have overcome more than the average American could hope to in a lifetime.  But, again, they just don’t know.  Because this is life.  This is all they know.

I wish they could all go.  I wish I could wave a wand, chunk some money in the air, and solve their problems (I suspect some still think I can).  But life is unfair and all I can do is point the way and encourage them to keep walking.  “I know you can’t see it.  You won’t see it for many years.  But stay on the path.  It is a good one.  It will take you there, but you must keep struggling forward.  I cannot carry you.  But yes you can.”

Sometimes I wish I could choose.  Sometimes I’m grateful I don’t have to.

Junior deserves it so much, but so do Festus, George, Garrison, smiling Serena, Mercy, Prince… Prince worries me lately.  He is taking it very seriously, is very nervous.  His hands, always confident on the board, shook as he shuffled through his papers on my porch.  “Ms. RB, I just want to get small understanding on this…”  Whatever happens with this scholarship he will do something big.  He’s a little older and very well spoken, something they give him a hard time about.  “Prince, we’re having a collection to send you to Ghana,” they say, “You can’t speak Liberian and you can’t speak Ghanaian.  Ms. RB, you’ll help?  We’re sending him back.”  He’s always good natured about it and I always say I don’t want him to go but I’m sure it bothers him.

I have no idea how I’m going to write all these recommendations.  It’s going to be another long race…

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