We like to think that the internet and all of its social media are to blame for publishing our quirks and follies to unintended parts of the world. In reality, we human beings have always had a tendency to forget how far or in how many unexpected directions our words can go.
This week I was reminded of all of the times I wrote or said something that took on a life or an audience of its own when reading over scholarship applications. Every student who gets a Growth Through Learning scholarship sends in a reapplication each year that keeps us updated on any dramatic changes in her circumstances or school performance. She then gives the form to our coordinator on the scene, who is often her guidance counselor or headmistress.
Within this application, we have one question that asks whether there have been any challenges at school or at home that have effected your studies during the past year. Most of our students say “no” or explain that with the financial burden lifted by the scholarship everything has been going much better. Some add in a medical problem during the year–it is still shocking to see the number of lives, dreams and hours lost to malaria–or will let us know about a death in the family or other tragedy. The coordinators look over these, as do we, as one of our filters for determining when a student needs some extra help of some sort.
One of our current batch of reapplications, however, stood out. Caught up in the tumult of early adolescence, this student used the space to write an irate complaint to her headmistress: “Sister, some people abused me when I refused to buy her a snack at the canteen.” The note goes on to say that the young woman in question would not give in and was quite disturbed by the incident (in not so many words). In the midst of all of the more tragic stories I was reading, this one made me chuckle sympathetically. After all, these are exactly the sort of things 11-year-old girls should be worrying about, and I certainly hope that the demander-of-snacks and our applicant were able to sort out the issue. I doubt that our young scholar meant for the incident to fly off over continents to scatter its indignation over the desk of a strange American woman. Having made such an impressive trip of it, though, I could not resist giving it this little nudge further out to all of you.
You never know when the peculiarities of your own, little human existence will go flitting off into the larger world without you. We all do it, of course, and it doesn’t seem to end when you are 40 or 60 or 80 years old. How great that moment is, though when someone else’s stray thought alights unexpectedly at your window.
**I know for a fact that many of you have supported international efforts to fight malaria. We are making great progress, both in cutting deaths through prevention and treatment and in research toward better treatment and cures. I encourage you to help us continue this fight. Go to the UN Foundation’s page on Malaria, or to one of my favorites, Nothing But Nets.