The little girl’s dress was worn bare, thin and stained, held together by several safety pins. Her skin was darker than most of the other children from working in the fields during the day alongside her family. She wasn’t old enough to go to school. It was possible that she wouldn’t be given the chance to in the future. She was new to our weekend classes, arriving with a friend who was wearing an oversized baseball cap and much more confident than she was. Hand in hand, her friend boldly dragged her to the front of the class. Timidly climbing into her chair, she looked a bit scared. For most of the class, she wouldn’t look up or meet my eyes.
At the end of story time, we passed out activity sheets to the older children in the class and then coloring sheets to the younger ones. Crayons and colored pencils were given to each child. Excitedly, the little ones put their sheets of paper on the plastic chairs they had been sitting on, using them now as tables, and began to color. Her friend beside her was happily coloring away.
Still sitting in her chair, her feet not touching the ground, she gently swung her legs back and forth. Gripping the paper in her little hands, she looked sadly down at the coloring sheet. She didn’t say a word. She also didn’t pick up a crayon to color. She just stared at the sheet. I asked her if she was okay. She finally looked up at me and whispered something in a language I didn’t understand. One of the older girls sitting behind her leaned over and asked the same question in her language. The little one looked as if she was ready to cry as she answered the older girl. The older girl patted the little one on her back and simply said to me, “She doesn’t know how.”
Pulling up a chair in front of her, I carefully pulled her off the chair and turned her around to face her chair to use it as a table for her coloring sheet like the other children. I had to move gently as she seemed nervous. I placed a crayon in her hand and together we colored on a spot on the sheet. She quickly got the hang of it and joyfully filled in the rest. When she finished, she happily asked for another sheet. From time to time, she would look up at me to see if I was watching and to happily receive a thumbs-up with a “Good job!”
A new door had been opened to her and she gladly entered in. It seems so simple. I don’t exactly know what her daily life is like. From all appearances, I imagine it to be very difficult. Teaching her to color was a simple act for me, but significant to her. A memorable childhood moment was created for this little girl right in front of my eyes. It was wonderful to watch her move from sadness to joy. It was beautiful to see her eyes dance (and her little body too) having succeeded at something new.
It was a reminder to me that many times it is the simple acts that we perform that are the most significant. They may seem too simple to matter, too small to notice, but within their simplicity lies something bigger. They might mean the world to someone else.