I’m posting this entry from the school where I’m scrounging up some internet. As you can imagine, four days in Trévoux without internet was absolute torture for me. There I was with no Skype, no roommate, a dead town, and a stuffed animal who, while as loving and comforting as she can be, has been a mute these 22 years. And satisfying as gazing up at my nearly nonexistent paper chain was, I had to turn to my DVDs for some real entertainment and, I’ll admit, illusion of companionship. When you’re all alone, it’s nice to have other voices floating around even if they’re pouring from your computer. Many fictional characters have grown near and dear to me this year, but allow me to turn to an old favorite.
Don’t let the life-sized cardboard cutout of Legolas I got for my 16th birthday fool you. Much as I have always loved quoting the infamous, “Something draws near, I can feel it,” his words are not the ones I want to focus on just now.
My first month in France I watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. At the time I felt overwhelmed by the seeming impossibility of making it through this program. And like Frodo I had wished that none of it had happened. Everything seemed to have gone so horribly wrong. Fast-forward through six months of you-know-what and here I am at the end of it. So it seemed to me very fitting to watch the last two thirds of the saga, which my mom had so graciously brought to me in Nice.
At the end of The Two Towers, I found myself crying over the speech of a small, but courageous hobbit…
Sam: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo; the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stayed with you; that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”
Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”
Now, I am by no means comparing my passing trial to that of destroying evil. But I hope you can see the parallel I’m trying to draw here. In October I cried myself to sleep holding my mom’s hand in a hotel room in Lyon. In November I was frustrated over a lack of classes. In December I had to ”get naked” for the French government. In January my family pushed me onto a plane back to Paris. In February I nearly quit over the discouraging words of a colleague. And in March my impatience to be home was nearly tangible. As I told my best friend Ali on Skype so many months ago, I had to train my eyes to strain to see the silver lining each and every day i.e. students excited to practice English with me in the hallways, teachers happy to see the results of my lessons, etc. Any “Hi, Sally!” from a student passing by was a victory I had to cling to. Any call, e-mail, letter, prayer, fleeting well-wishing thought from all of you along with these little victories of mine have been the good that have kept me fighting through this. They have been what have kept me going. I am absolutely stunned to be standing on the brink of my last week here because at the beginning I didn’t even want to start. I immediately wanted to walk away. But what I wanted and what I knew I had to do were two very different things. And it’s not with amazement in myself that I’m about to close this trying chapter of my life. It was all God. I cannot credit one shred of this accomplishment to myself. Because if it had been up to me, I would have dropped this program like The One Ring and gone home with my parents in October.
I’m not saying the past seven months have all been horrible. I have, of course, enjoyed getting to know my students and traveling all over France with Sarah and a few others. And I know other English assistants who had a very different and positive experience and I’m happy for them. Mine was hard to swallow, but I can appreciate it for what it was and for all that I learned. The greatest of which are that God is good and God is faithful. To quote Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” And now to use “bad English” that I would never dream of using in the classroom… Ain’t that the truth?