Sitting down on the couch this Friday, Mama Kathy and I began discussing, for seemingly the millionth time we came back to the same tired line. “It all comes back to relationships, doesn’t it?” She declared with a worn yet twinkling smile. We had been discussing a recent accomplishment in my classroom. The mastery of puzzles. The school had been given several dozen puzzles over the past few years. Of the dozen or so that remain, they mostly make home in the preschool classroom, where they get the most used. My student have been practicing one to one puzzles for over a year. Within the past month, however, a few of my kids have shot ahead. Modeline, a student of mine, struggles in my class. Though she is well fed and has a decent home life, she doesn’t have the attention span to sit still long enough to learn. Nor does she see the point. She proudly declares she is going to be a mama and nothing else when she grows up. So she struggles in alphabet, French and even simple colors and numbers. One day, when I was thoroughly frustrated with her I took her away from her assignment and spent some individual time with her. We pulled out a big 25 piece floor puzzle. Slowly I began showing her how to put together a “big peoples” puzzle. We found the corner pieces and the edge pieces. We looked for matching colors and looked beyond colors to see what the objects might be so we could find more pieces. It took us probably a half an hour to do the puzzle but by the end she was smiling. She was the first in the class to tackle such a big puzzle. The next day we found stashed away some simplier 9 piece puzzles. Again I explained how we find the next piece and how to check to see if the puzzle piece actually goes there. This time she was a little faster and more independent. Not waiting on me to ask what piece to look for next, instead she looked and checked herself. She was beaming as she put the last piece in the set. Everyday since then she quickly does her school work so she can work on puzzles. She can now proudly boast the ability to put together our very hard 24 piece board puzzle all by herself. She devours them. This accomplishment is huge for our kids. Even my translator cannot do that puzzle that Modeline can. I am so proud of her.
After relating all of this to Mama Kathy she gave me that line about relationships. How true is it though, I retorted. I have always assumed people just picked up the skills as they got older. But in working with our staff who can’t use sissors properly or effieiciently, or watching Clerventz try his hardest to put together a simple puzzle, I have realized they don’t. People don’t just “happen” to learn skills without practice. And to practice, somebody first has to teach them. If we look at all of Jubilee and see that nobody can do puzzles, our hearts break. But to look at the problem so vastly, our only option is to try to fix it outside of relationships. The only thing I can do when I see a city who cannot do puzzles, is to send over a shipment of puzzles. But, God didn’t design us as bandaids. My skill set and abilities are made to heal. I can heal problem, not just patch them up. Zoom in and I see a little girl in a class who feels left out and behind and cannot do puzzles. So I spend time with her and teach her and she becomes the best in her class, maybe even in the school. Zoom out and I see a community and can only send something to fix it. Zoom in and it is the relationship, not the puzzle that fixes the problem.