Miss Wendy is a part of our mission team here. She also teaches music at the school, and she was due to deliver her baby in just 2 weeks. I had been holding in my emotions this week because the students hadn’t been told that Miss Wendy lost her baby. Today, because I knew the students were made aware, my emotions let loose. Awkwardly, I started crying in 7th grade English. I had to leave the class to try to regain my composure. When I returned, I stopped them from reading to explain why I was crying, and why I was sad.
Their responses caught me off guard. “People die all the time.” “She has two other kids.” They weren’t being disrespectful. They weren’t being rude. They were genuinely confused on why I was so sad. To them, death was just another part of life.
Living in a different culture is fascinating. I love when I realize a cultural difference, especially when I can mentally work through it and understand how and why it’s different. But today was hard. It made me sad that these kids didn’t seem to process the idea of death the way I do, or the sadness that I feel should be associated with death. Jesus even wept!
I explained the best I could. I said, “Do you know how when you’re angry, you show it! You yell, and you fight and you feel that emotion so strongly?” They understood and confirmed. I said, “Well, the way anger is a strong emotion for you, sadness is a strong emotion for me.” It probably wasn’t the best comparison, but it was all I had.
As we continued reading (the chapter happened to be the death of Aslan), I got sad all over again, but for a different reason. I desperately want my students to understand Jesus, His love, and what He’s done for us, but in my brain, that’s hard to grasp if you can’t experience sadness. What Jesus did for us is amazing and good and … all those other fantastic words, but to fully get it (and I still don’t), you really have to think of the sadness of God the Father, and the sadness of Jesus suffering alone. Love isn’t all happy and get what you want. It’s tears and pain because you care about someone.
I don’t want to give one story to the Dominican people. This was just my experience today, and even as I’ve seen others talk of death here, it hasn’t been common for me to see people displaying their grief. I will spend the next few weeks processing it all, talking through it with friends, and asking God for help and wisdom as I work with these students.
I left today challenged–challenged to step back from what is normal for me and consider something different. I don’t usually like challenges, but graciously, God is patient with me.