This is my second year as a tutor through Reading Partners, which is a fantastic program that fosters literacy in local schools. If you happen to have an hour a week during school hours to share, I highly encourage you to consider giving that hour to Reading Partners in a local school near you. I want to share with you something that happened this morning with my student, whom I’ll call C.
C is extremely shy, and it’s taken me a few weeks to get him to open up to me and respond in any way. But we’ve found our groove now, and I even catch him smiling at me on occasion. Today he had a book report filled out, complete with beautifully drawn pictures. He had read the story of the Three Little Pigs. I asked him about the story, and whether he liked it. Yes, he said. He liked it very much. I noticed he hadn’t filled out the final section of the report: Write your favorite part of the book in one sentence. I asked him if he had a favorite part. He nodded, staring at the ground. Will you share it with me? I asked. He spoke so softly I couldn’t hear him. I leaned down closer. Tell me one more time, I said.
And then he said: “They sat through it.”
Tell me more about that, I nudged. He replied, “When the wolf came, they sat through it.”
Well, I nearly cried. Instead I nodded, and after a moment of silence I said, “That was very brave of the pigs.”
I don’t know how or under what circumstances C’s family arrived in the United States, but they are new to our shores. He is learning English slowly but surely, but it seems quite apparent that much is still new to him, both in our language and our culture. It is no surprise that a story about houses being blown down and pigs being uprooted from their homes made such an impact on him. But I was most struck by his insight into the pigs’ experience in the last house, the brick house, his favorite part. The wolf came, and he blew on the house to no avail. But the pigs still had to endure the fear that the wolf was just outside the door, seeking their destruction with all of his gust and his might. What must the pigs do? They must sit through it.
Friends, none of us want to be in that situation. But the wolf pays all of us a visit at some point or another. Our first task is to create a structure that is strong and secure, and that is good and necessary work. But we often forget our second and perhaps more difficult task: to sit through it.
We can build a brick house, but we cannot rid the world of wolves. All we can do- what we must do- is sit through it. In the face of evil, of destruction, of negative forces batting down our doors, we must be resolute and calm. We need both an external strength and, more importantly, an internal one. We must both build the house and sit through the storm waiting right outside.
I handed C a pencil, and asked him to write his sentence. I watched as he did so slowly, letter by letter, resolutely:
“They sat through it.”
Four words of deep wisdom.
I am grateful to C for sharing them.