This I Believe

Paula - McCormick, South Carolina
Entered on October 1, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: community

I believe in people-not just my fellow Americans, but people from all over the world. They came to me via my public school classroom. Their jobs had brought them and their families to the U.S. Quite by chance, I became their child’s teacher. I spoke no language other than English, yet to my door they came, bringing me their children, my students, and telling me personally or through translators that they wanted the best for their children and had great hopes for their son’s or daughter’s education here in the United States. They welcomed me into their lives, and thus began a career that took me through seventeen years of teaching and traveling throughout the world’s cultures via the families whose children I taught.

I will never forget: a Chinese mother who came to school with her children and had learned enough English to say to me, “ Thank you for teaching my children.” A Japanese father who read one of my classroom books, So Far From the Bamboo Grove, and wrote me a note, sharing his mother’s story of her time in WWII, and told me,” I could not read the book without tears.” A Brazilian father, who, sharing his agony over 9/11, said to me, “ Mrs. Walters, we love America-we see it as an example of what a country should strive to be.” And lastly, I remember a Saudi father who left his office early so he could bring their new baby by so I could see her. This was my last year teaching there and they wanted to make sure that I had met the entire family. This was special to me because his sons had come after 9/11. This family needed to feel as good and confident about being here as those who had come before.

I have learned much: that they too work hard every day and find the demands exhausting but mostly wonderful; that they, too, have their hopes and dreams for their families’ futures; that they, too, know in a very real way that it is going to take all of us from every corner of the world working at our best and together to make the world what it can be.

In my mind’s eye I still see these families and the American families from my school talking together: Americans telling stories of their visits to theses new families’ parts of the world, inviting their children to play with their children…all wonderful families. I believe in people…this I believe.