Early one morning last week, after setting up breakfast for the community, I found myself with 15 extra minutes before meditation. I watched the conditioned tendency to fill it with doing — sweeping the porch, tending to chores. And I do love that practice — being present in the moment, with a few extra minutes, taking time to care for something that presents itself as needing care. However, on this morning, life seemed to invite ‘using’ the time to sit quietly in a chair and enjoy the sound of the birds welcoming a beautiful spring day.
2017 was the first year when Living Compassion witnessed girls graduate from grade 12. Sylvia, Esther, Rachel, and Miriam all completed high school. They all sat for the national standardized exams which determine whether one is eligible to continue their education.
The scores were posted last month. They revealed the challenges of growing up and living in Kantolomba, as well as the transformation that is possible.
Sylvia, the playful one Theresa was most concerned about leading up to the exams, passed all of her subjects! She is now positioned to be the very first Living Compassion woman (we really can’t call them girls any longer!) to attend college. Wow! She is currently researching her options for an education in journalism. We shall keep you posted! Thrilling.
Esther, Mirriam, and Rachel each passed in some areas and not others. When we asked Theresa what is next for each of them, she told us that Esther’s and Rachel’s families have already enrolled them in a special program designed for just this purpose—to tutor students who did not pass all of the subjects and need to re-sit for parts of the exam. We marveled at what this demonstrates.
It’s challenging for families to be motivated to take on the herculean task of setting aside precious resources needed for basic survival and route them toward educating their children, especially when they live in a community where there are almost no examples of someone completing an education and moving out of extreme poverty. It is a very long-term investment that few can manage and when they can it will always be for their sons first.
That makes this movement on the part of Esther’s and Rachel’s families very exciting. The value of education, and in particular educating daughters, is becoming apparent and people are not only seeing it but are moved to participate in the investment. It is also worth noting that a big part of why Esther’s family is able to take this on is that her father, Elias, is part of the Living Compassion cooperative.
“And Mirriam?” we asked Theresa.
“Her family does not have the kwacha for the special program,” Theresa told us.
“So, what will she do?” we asked.
Theresa smiled (we were on Skype), “Well, she said, each month that she receives her Girls’ Program stipend Mirriam is giving most of it to me to hold for her.”
Each of the girls in the Girls Program receives a small amount of kwacha—Zambian currency—every month to cover their basic needs and assist them to not need to do things they do not want to do to meet those needs in other ways. Of her own accord, Mirriam decided her most pressing need is to re-sit for those subjects in which she did not pass. Theresa said she is on track to have enough funds to pay for herself to sit for her exams again in December.
Big goosebumps with that one.
Filed under the category of Life unfolds perfectly, there was a gap between when the exam results came out and when we spoke with Theresa. Had we had all of the information before those movements had been made—Esther’s and Rachel’s families stepping up to invest in their daughters’ educations and Mirriam choosing to start saving towards her re-test -- it would have been tempting to offer assistance. And it struck me that this was same principle I experienced that early morning at the Monastery—sometimes our greatest participation is a ‘not doing’, an invitation to participate by witnessing the beauty and perfection of what is unfolding before us.
As always, unending gratitude for your participation in the unfolding. Oh, and we shall certainly keep you posted!