Sometimes our students’ stories are our remedy for long days when every small action seems like an uphill battle.
When I am feeling like things are particularly unfair, and like there are just too many obstacles in my way, I think of my Mary.
When Mary came to my class, she was a beautiful, happy fifteen year old girl. Her only dream in life is to be a model. That’s all she has ever wanted in life- to be a model.
Growing up, Mary was a happy child. Her parents were able to provide not much, but enough to keep her and her brother and sister healthy and happy. They all went to a nice school. They had nice enough teachers.
When Mary turned thirteen, though, her parents had to take her out of school. They had to take her out of school to save her life.
You see, Mary and her family lived in El Salvador. For those of you who don’t know, in much of El Salvador, the people have to pay rent to the Mara Salvatrucha, the world’s deadliest gang, for various things like office space, transportation, schooling. And just for the record, the Mara didn’t begin in El Salvador, they were deported there from the United States. But that’s a history lesson for another day.
So Mary’s parents took her out of school, and Mary lived a relatively peaceful life for about another year. She worked around the house and helped her parents however she could. She played with her brother and sister when the work was done, and spent afternoons listening to her grandmother tell stories of their ancestors.
Then life delivered Mary and her family the most devastating blow of all.
The gang found out about Mary. They found out she was still living at home, escaping the “rent.” And they put a bounty on her head.
What would you do? I’m sure you would do exactly what Mary’s family did. They set out on a harrowing journey to bring her to the land of the free, the land where dreams are made. The land where Mary gets to chase her dreams. And the land where I get to hug her, protect her, and tell her how much I love her, how much I admire her courage. The land where I get to teach …Mary.
I wish the story ended there.
This week, I awake to a new reality.
I can no longer say that I get to hug Mary, protect Mary, tell her I love her and admire her.
I can no longer say I get to teach Mary.
Mary’s mother just received deportation orders.
It’s a really terrifying thought- to think of my Mary having to go back to El Salvador.
By great fortune, there is a country named Canada with a president named Justin Trudeau. Mary will move there, and some kind teacher will hug her, love her, protect her, and admire her. Other students of mine will not face such a happy fate.
And I am left to wonder, why can’t this be my country? The country where dreams are made and children are left to chase them?
Names have been changed to protect my innocent, beautiful students.