Shouting, screaming, yelling, they are all slightly different from one another. Under normal circumstances, I’d never be able to tell the difference between them. But here, at this orphanage, they are so common that I can depict them from each other. Boys are constantly being shrieked at, normally for doing things like hitting, playing with something or somewhere that they aren’t suppose to, or breaking something. It’s stressful to exist in this environment, I’m not sure if I could do it all day everyday. There is a “kill or be killed” attitude among the boys–this turns them into fighters. They hit without thinking, they seek revenge first and ask questions later. It’s disheartening to watch, almost sickening. And so, I’ve decided to intervene. This problem cannot be fixed overnight, heck, I doubt it can be fixed over the course of the year, but I sure as heck am going to do my best to play my little part in creating peace. I recognize, the problem must be solved from the inside out. And so, we go within…
Each day, after the morning assembly, I take my four fifth graders to a shady spot on the orphanage grounds away from the school and away from every other human being. I have them sit cross-legged, opening their palms to the sky, and close their eyes. Then, whether they like it or not, I guide them through mediations. Most of the time I’m simply instructing them to breathe in and breathe out, but sometimes I’ll be a bit more structured with the meditation, giving them a story to follow or a scenario to play our in their heads. I always have them set an intention for someone special in their life, too. I think this helps ground them in their peaceful state. It’s not easy to get ten-year-old boys to sit still and “go within”, but you have to start somewhere, you can’t just give up because they aren’t likely meditation candidates.
We meditate for about ten minutes every morning. I have yet to instruct a meditation in which all four boys stay focused for the whole session. In fact, I don’t expect this to happen at any point in the near future. At least one of them always has to make a comment, open their eyes to watch a car go by, or respond to somebody passing on the street in front of them. But, the fact of the matter is, it’s doing something. I’m increasingly impressed by the boys who keep their eyes closed the entire time, maintain focus, and breathe along with each of my instructions. To be honest, it gives me a little faith in their generation.
I can’t be entirely certain, but I think I’m seeing a few changes in my boys. Since the orphanage is constantly experiencing fights between the boys, I always tell my kids in the middle of their meditation that they are “soldiers of God” and they have to do good in the world, avoid fighting, break up fights that occur between others, and spread love and light. It sounds like total schmooze coming out of my mouth, but they take it seriously. Who doesn’t want to be on the front lines for God, fighting for love? Three of my boys were called away from my class earlier this week to speak to the headmistress about a fight they were involved in. When they returned, I prepared myself to have to discipline them for getting in trouble, but, as it turns out, they were only involved in the fight because…they were trying to stop it.
This is a small step. I cannot begin to explain how overwhelming many of the issues at work and at the orphanage are, but I can’t give up. Holy cow, some days all I want to do it give up. I want to run back to the US and leave all of this behind me. But those are fleeting feelings. Guyana is the only place in the world I want to be right now. Working with these boys is the only work I want to be doing right now. I’m just going to stick with it for now, no matter how tough it may be sometimes. We’ll see what the future holds. Maybe I’ll meditate on it.
Just for fun: