Things work out, they really do. Life doesn’t always take you down the path you’d expect it to, but things normally end up being OK. This is what has happened to me over the course of this year (at least from September-April).
I live in Saint Louis, Missouri, but I work in East Saint Louis, Illinois. These may sound like similar places, but I assure you they could not be anymore different from one another. East Saint Louis has a population of about 27,000 and dropping, it’s been called “the most dangerous city in America” and it currently also holds claim to the highest murder rate in the nation –twenty times the national average! So, those are the fun facts about the city I work in. The piece of the job that cannot be captured in a statistic is just how much heart the people I’ve gotten to work with the last year have.
When driving to work each morning, I commute over a bridge that crosses over the Mississippi river, and takes me into Illinois from Missouri. There, I drive about two more miles and get off at the first exit with a strip club. Then, I take the first left at the prison. These are the comical things that I realized after weeks of commuting into the city. They aren’t the most attractive ideas of a city, but it’s reality. And all of that crap goes away when I buzz myself into the school Monday-Friday.
Working with Kindergarteners, 1st graders, 4th graders, 5th graders, and 8th graders from the inner-city has opened my eyes in ways that I never imagined. I’ve learned life lessons that I likely could have only dreamed of learning prior to moving here. I have developed such an appreciation for the small things in life, for the little blessings here and there in my own world. I’ve also found myself learning something new everyday. There are so many things that five-year-olds can teach adults, so many reminders about struggle that eighth graders present to me on a regular basis. This entire year has been one massive detour in which I’ve found myself doing something that I assumed I would never do –teaching, and spending 45 hours a week with kids. In fact, the experience has been so rewarding, that I’ve decided to pursue a second year of teaching for 2014-2015.