by Jenna Horgan
When I walk out of the school on Friday I feel a little bit like a rock star. Kids come running to say goodbye. “Jenna! Adios! See you Monday for music class!” I can’t leave without a giant hug from every child, and groups of first and second graders watch me walk down the street until I’m out of sight.
My husband Chris and I teach music education to over 300 children at our Brethren Volunteer Service placement in Suchitoto, El Salvador. Kids here don’t know many songs (singing is more for churches than children), so we give them the opportunity to sing, play instruments, and learn about music from different cultures.
I also regularly visit La Mora, a rural community where I teach music to another group of 75 school age children.
When I first started working in La Mora, I was uneasy about what I should do during the students’ 45-minute recess. I felt that I should work, or prepare for class—the American way. But then came little Michelle, with her pigtails and her big brown eyes. Every time I came to La Mora, she would bound into my classroom and say, “Let’s play!” I’d tell her I was working but she wouldn’t have it. “No, let’s play!”
I have never felt so loved and appreciated. The children here are so fascinated by me; they want to sit by me (all of them) and stare and ask what my favorite color is….
But sometimes I feel guilty. Receiving so much love and attention can be uncomfortable and overwhelming. Why me? Why am I so special? I don’t deserve their love.
Fortunately, these little ones are patient with me as I learn. I’m not there yet, but I have made progress. Now, when Michelle invites me to join her at recess, I accept. I talk with her and the other kids and their teachers, and though my Spanish is still not perfect, it is good to be with them. They are teaching me to not take myself so seriously. They are teaching me to rest. They are teaching me to play. They are teaching me to accept the love that I receive, and to give it back with all my heart.
Jenna Horgan is a Brethren Volunteer Service worker in El Salvador. Visit www.brethren.org/bvs to learn more and support this important core ministry of the Church of the Brethren.