On the Way to School

Where are you going?  Who is walking with you?  How are you preparing to travel?  What do you do when you get to your destination?

I don’t have a lot of time to watch television.  I usually watch tv when I’m folding laundry or accomplish some other household task.  I try to watch something thought-provoking when I do watch something.  The other night, I couldn’t sleep, having an awful allergy attack, and came across a documentary entitled, “On the Way to School.”

I love anything that allows me a peek into a journey outside of my own that is authentic and true.  This documentary is about the journey of kids from Argentina, Kenya, India, and Morocco and how they get to school each day.  Each of their stories follows a one way trip to school in a day, each trip taking from 90 minutes to four hours.  For typical American kids, these kids’ journeys may seem atypical, but I would beg to differ.  Here’s an example of the documented kids’ travel:

Samuel is pushed in a makeshift wheelchair in India by his brothers, Gabriel and Emmanuel: 90 minute journey

Zahira, Zineb, Noura cross the Atlas Mountains in Morocco twice a week: one way takes four hours

Carlos takes his sister, Micaela, by horsepack through Patagonia for a two-hour trek.

Jackson and his sister, Salome, navigate the Chalbi Desert, being watchful of wild animals on their two-hour journey to school.

As Americans, we are often pointing out how blessed our kids are; we have transportation to get them to school, books, technology, etc. to help them build a foundation of knowledge to springboard into where their passions lie.  Often, we use phrases like, “those poor kids over there…” when we examine our circumstances in comparison to theirs.  Watching a documentary like this doesn’t make me feel that at all.  If I really think about it, I see kids who are learning character and endurance, that there are some things worth taking a risk for & that the journey will be hard, but it will be worth it.  I love how the film shows how the kids wake up very early, pray, wash up, talk with their parents, and eat as they prepare for their journey and day at school.  The kids are then told to be careful and to watch out for one another as they are on their way.

On the flip side, I think American kids have a difficult journey “On the Way to School” too; it may look different, but it’s still true.  Many of our kids are trekking through the pressure of performance, depression, social drama, bullying, low self-esteem, etc. to get to and through school.  The struggle is real.  Their journeys are emotional and exhausting; they take great courage to muster up the strength to get in the door and through the day, sometimes.  I would argue that we are all born with a soul that was created for life, and therefore we endure, we overcome, we continue the journey in the face of trouble and fear.  The journey of the soul may look different in varying circumstances, but we are all doing the same work.

As we are doing life together, I was reminded to ask myself and my own children…

Where are you going?

How are you going to get there?

What are you going to do if you face a dangerous situation?

How will you handle adversity?

What’s your purpose for taking this journey?

What do you hope to do after you get there?

Often, I’m under the impression that many of us Americans think we have it all together in comparison to other places around the world.  Well, we have more “stuff” don’t we?  Cars, air-conditioned homes, running water, etc.  I can’t help but think that this is a false belief- the stuff doesn’t make us blessed.  The stuff is just external layers to what really matters…

Where are you going?  How are you going to get there?  What do you do in the face of dangerous situations and adversity?  Why are you taking this journey?  What do you hope to do after you get there?

My experience is that American kids have a hard time answering these questions mostly because their worlds are so cluttered with stuff, or our culture has told them to want the stuff,  that they can’t see the truth of why they are here in life.

I had a difficult conversation with my daughter yesterday.  It went something like this:  “Alex, my heart is hurting because your reason for talking with me in the past few weeks have been mostly about you wanting something.  I miss hearing about how you’re feeling.  I don’t want our relationship to just be about the stuff you need or want, although it’s my pleasure to provide for you.  Can we talk about how things are going in your life?”  She started to cry.  I didn’t apologize for saying this, but I recognized that she was felt sorrow at me lovingly confronting this.  Many people say, “Well, we should take our kids to developing nations and/or do volunteer work.”  Yes, I agree with this.  This is always good for the soul to stretch, but my daughter has done a mission trip to Ethiopia (where her brother was born), she does local volunteer work, etc.  She is very aware of what it looks like to have stuff and not have stuff.  I know that the hard work lies with us, as parents and leaders, to lovingly guide our families back to our core- who we are and what we are about.  It’s in the daily work that the difference lies.  The rest is a great memory to connect it to.

The kids in the documentary are, without the distraction of stuff, connected to their core.  That is a blessing that I have a choice to intentionally lead my family to.  I do have the choice to fight through the distractions and act upon that.  Sometimes we get lost.  It’s just truth.  The struggle to not let schedules, sports, ego, and materialism are a constant struggle here in our household; we are as typical as they come.  But often, I feel the Holy Spirit nudge at my heart when I feel the chaos taking control asking me:

Where are you going?  How are you going to get there?  What do you do in the face of dangerous situations and adversity?  Why are you taking this journey?  What do you hope to do after you get there?

And then I overcome with the desire to stop and act upon it.

Samuel, the older brother in Kenya, describes the purpose of his long, dangerous journey to school each day like this:

“I want to fly.  I want to see rivers and mountains.”

And I believe he (and us) can.

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