I went to a celebration several weeks ago to honor the progress of adult literacy students. One student had passed his high school equivalency test. Another had become a US citizen, and another had obtained his driver's license.
A room full of tutors and fellow students applauded and cheered those accomplishments. The progress of other students, not as measured, but certainly significant, was also highlighted and recognized.
As a tutor participating in that program, run by Literacy Volunteers of Massachusetts, I was there to celebrate the courage and progress of a group of students who have braved the potential shame of publicly admitting their reading level (elementary school level or lower) in order to ask for help. That step alone is worth celebrating. Their desire and hope for progress became greater than their fear of embarrassment.
Principles that are second nature to people who have been readers since childhood can be very confusing to a beginner.
At a session a few weeks ago, my student stumbled when reading the word "sure." Why does it sound like "shur" when there's no "h"? After mastering "sure," we came upon "surprise." Wouldn't it be "shurprise"? But she read it correctly, and that was a small triumph. These little steps of progress encourage both of us.
Some of the students also bring baggage - they're just not good in school, they don't know how to progress, or they've accepted the label that some have put on them as stupid.
A tutor's job is to help the student drop the baggage and get on to the task at hand of improving reading skills.
I've found that another part of a tutor's duty is to meet the student's courage, hope, and desire with faith. I love how courage, hope, desire, and faith all come from the same source.
One level of faith is faith in the student to progress. While that is important, there's a deeper faith that's called upon - the faith that stems from the understanding that God, Spirit, is the source of all progress and that God has never put us in camps of "haves" and "have nots." In God's view, we're all "haves." The Bible says, "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ" (Eph. 4:7).
This is difficult to accept when inequities look so apparent. Part of the tutoring process for me has, in fact, been to be steadfast in holding to that biblical promise as true.
Tutoring has demanded me to ask myself, What am I seeing when I look at this student or any of the students in the program? Are they merely products of a difficult childhood, having lived, in some cases, in a culture that 35 years ago didn't put a high value on education, maybe especially not for girls?
Or am I seeing the man and woman of God's creation, whole and unlimited, "given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ"? The more I can see that God-given completeness, I've found, the more helpful I can be.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, described progress as the law of God and continued her description, "whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 233). Knowing that God's demand can always be fulfilled helps when progress seems slow.
Knowing that progress is possible and, in fact, authorized by God, can help lead us forward, in whatever challenging task lies ahead.
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run,
and not be weary;
and they shall walk,
and not faint.