Big English

Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic. – J.K. Rowling

He finishes his reading assessment and peers over at my screen where all the words are marked red.

I had to tell him every one of them.

He’s only been in this country for a year.

He is tiny, but his dark eyes are bright, intense. They catch and perceive everything. I can tell.

He considers all the red on the screen, then turns those knowing eyes on me.

Before I can say, “It’s okay, don’t worry, you’ll learn,” he reaches over to pat my arm.

“You,” he says. “You have big English.”

He pats his own chest. “Me, little English. I have big Spanish.”

I point to myself, to finish his thought: “Me, I have poco Spanish.”

He grins at me, and I smile back.

We understand each other in a way beyond words. We are okay, in perfect company, because of this wordless knowing between us. No assessment invented by man can capture the height, the depth, the strength of the human spirit. There is no real reason why trust should suddenly be born in such a moment, but it clearly has been.

“I tell you what,” I say to my tiny new friend, for that is what he is now, “I will help you with English and you can help me with Spanish.”

His grin broadens. His eyes shine.

I hold up my hand: “Deal?”

He laughs, slaps my hand with his own. “Deal.”

And he vacates the chair beside me, going off for the rest of his school day in a sea of Big English. Like a salmon, he has a hard battle, upstream all the way.

I expect he’ll swim, rise, leap – I see it in his eyes, sense it in his spirit.

I wonder what the future holds for him. Something of great importance, great value – I can feel it tugging.

Whatever part I can play, let me play it.

Let the magic begin.

11 thoughts on “Big English

  1. This post made me tear up. I was touched by the immensity of your job with this kid, but also by his immense heart and trust. It’s a big wide world out there. This small moment shows exactly how we should face it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked the spare quality of your structure and word choice here, what you don’t say along with what you do say really gives that feeling of all this young boy has inside of him waiting to emerge. Thank you for sharing this piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so beautiful and moving. I agree with gillis that you have masterfully crafted this slice and captured so much here. That young boy’s strong spirit shines through. This piece moved me and will stay with me. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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