Sunday, September 23, 2007


"You should write your name on the sign."
"I can't write my name."
"Here, I will help you."
"No, I didn't go to school and get an education. I can't write my name. You write it for me."
"I will help you, but I am not going to write for you. You can do it Musu, I know you can."

Tomorrow is Crystal, my Friends, birthday. The hope ward girls club and I were making birthday signs to decorate Crystal's door with. I placed some scrap paper and crayons on the floor and we were soon busy making decorations.

I wrote the first sing. It simply said, "Happy Birthday Crystal."
I wasn't sure if all the girls could read and write so I placed it in the center were it could be easily copied.

Each girls worked hard on their signs and I told them to write their names on each one so that Crystal would know who they were from. Musu wanted me to write her sing for her. Fair enough, but I wanted her to sign her name.

She refused.

I wrote her name on another pieces of paper and showed it to her. I told her I would help her write her name.

She still refused.

You could see in her eyes a lack of confidence and a fear of failure. She new that she was uneducated, never taught to read and write, and therefore was not qualified for the job of writing her name.

I could relate to her fear of failure having felt that same fear many times myself. I am a perfectionist. Often I don't like to publicly try things I am not great at. If I know I am around a person who can do something better then myself I'd rather divert to them then try at all. When you aren't fully confident in something and you put yourself out there anyway, you make yourself very vulnerable. I don't really do vulnerable so well.

I have an associate degree from Bucks County Community College in Nursing. Sometimes I have been labeled as uneducated because of where I went to school but I loved community college. I had wonderful teachers and classes and currently have no student loans, which makes it possible for me to spend a year volunteering in Africa. Where I did or didn't go to school makes me no more of less a person and is not a determination of intelligence or personality. It's just where I went to school.

Musu didn't get to go to school because she grew up in the middle of a war. It doesn't mean she is unintelligent or dumb. She was just never given the opportunity to learn.

I grabbed Musu's hand and helped her form the letters of her name. M. U. S. U. Musu.

When we were finished I made a huge fuss and a valiant smile broke across Musu's face. She was very pleased. I told her to never say "I can't", she can do anything she put her mind too.

We like to take so much credit for who we are. Our sense of style. Our witty humor. Our intelligent minds. But so much of what we become is only because of the opportunities we have been given.

We are all just the same human beings. I grew up in Bucks County where I was well loved, cared for, fed, and educated. Musu grew up in a civil war and received none of these things.
I taught her to spell her name not because I am smarter or more intelligent, but simply because I was given the opportunity learn to read and write. Musu never got that chance.

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