Failing math, in the 4th grade, seemed like the end of the world.
I sat on our patio bench and cried. I was crushed, helpless, when confronted with long division.
My teacher, in her final years of teaching, didn’t have much charisma or patience left. Her method? DOING long division equations on the chalkboard over and over, with minimal explanation, occasionally inserting the remark, “Soon, the light will dawn.”
To this day, those words make my blood run cold. It’s one of the earliest times I remember feeling despair and isolation.
I heard the sound of crunching gravel, and saw my grandfather’s light green Chevy truck come up our driveway, slowly. The truck doors closed and I wondered how I was going to hide my tears, but it was too late. My grandfather was at my side, with his arm around me before I could say anything.
I couldn’t even answer, when he asked me what was wrong, so my Mom told him, as I sobbed and tried to catch my breath. I still feel the strong grip he had on my shoulder as he gave me the simplest piece of guidance and hope.
He said, “Listen. When your mom, aunt and uncle had a big problem in school, the five of us would join our heads together to find the answer.” His exact words were, “Entre los cinco, juntábamos las cabezas para hallar la solución.”
These simple words taught me that when I’m at the end of my rope and hopeless, the answer will always come when I reach out to those around me and ask for help. The final decision may come when I’m alone or in deep thought, but options and new possibilities come when I invite someone else into my need, or fear.
When I visit my childhood home, in South Texas, I still look at that spot on the patio, where I felt that deep stirring of hope.