It's 2:03 a.m., and I have an exam in the morning.
No, that's an understatement. I have part two of an exam tomorrow morning. I already completed the first part on Wednesday, along with a rather large Media Law exam right after it. And a paper. And about 20 pages of Latin American Art reading to discuss in class. And another revision review with my Advanced Reporting professor and adviser.
I'm taking 18 credits this semester. And teaching English. And interning at the State Attorney's Office. And continuing as a mentor for Young Life. And....
Be still, Jenna. Please just be still.
OK, Jesus. Thank you. I was getting tired of hearing my own voice.
Yes, daughter. Me too.
There are small issues in this world, and there are big issues. The space between them is filled with a lot of hot air.
I have a test tomorrow morning. May I propose that although education has value, that's a small issue? But a girl I have that class with has started to confide in me. That's big.
I'm low on gas. That's small. I'm low on gas because I've been driving around my Young Life kids and pouring as much love into their lives as I know how. That's big.
Small issues. Big issues.
I was driving some of my middle schoolers home a couple of weeks ago when they began to complain over who I dropped off first. Well Syasia should have to go home first. No, Ziera should go home first. Jenna, please don't drop me off right now I don't want to go back. That's not fair! Var should have to get out first!
So after a couple of minutes had passed, I decided it was time my kids got a bit of a talking to.
"There are big issues in the world, and there are small issues," I said, not bothering to introduce my speech. "This is a very, very small problem."
One of my kids started to object, so I quickly continued, "You are sitting inside a car safe from the rain and cold. When I drop you off at your homes, you'll walk inside yet another roof and eat dinner. You may not like what it is, but you'll probably have food. But you're about to bust each other's faces because you're worried about who gets dropped off first."
"Children," I concluded, "Your problems are very, very small at the moment."
It was quiet for a minute, and then Syasia took a stab in the dark, "Jenna, is this about your kids in Guatemala?"
"Yes, Syasia," I said. "This is about my kids in Guatemala."
But it's about those same middle schoolers, too. When they're alone with me, they talk about their real problems. Problems like abuse, like losing their virginity at the age of 12, like smoking pot because it "makes the pain go away," like joining the gangs in their neighborhoods because their families really don't give a shit.
I always leave those conversations thinking the following, "And I didn't want to drive out here because I had a test to be studying for. My stupid little problems."
Let me stop here and say that I'm not implying that God doesn't care about the little things. Because he does! I'm just saying that maybe we could use a little perspective.
Somehow, our society says that things like getting a good job or finding the perfect house are the big things, but then turns and says "Aw, it's the little things" when watching a stranger help another stranger.
No, I would argue. Those are the big things.
I met a very animated Mexican man a couple of weeks ago who spent an hour explaining to me his view of the United States. In his rant, he said something that I found to be quite interesting:
I hate it when people here tell me they have to check their agenda
first. What do you mean? You need to check to see if you have
enough time for me? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
Woah. I've become that.
I used to say that there is no such thing as not having enough time to have a conversation with a stranger. I didn't care what was going on- if somebody from class or the grocery story or wherever I may be wanted to talk, I needed to stop and talk.
A month ago, I stopped one of my classmates mid conversation and apologized profusely because I had a really big thing to get to. A couple of weeks ago, I flat out just avoided a conversation I felt I didn't have time for. And just about every night, I get home and all I want to do is sit, eat, and not talk because I feel too tired for my roommates' energy.
So maybe I need to take a step back every once in a while and remember that relationships, that loving others is really what matters. That those are the big things.
Maybe I need to take a step back and remember that there's a bigger picture.
I was hanging out with two of my Venezuelan students when Daniel began to talk about another one of his English teachers. He was trying to describe him, so when he couldn't pin down his personality, he began to tell me about his line of work.
Ah! I said, interested. He studies anthropology! That's my minor!
Daniel threw his free hand in the air, exasperated. But you know what his research is? He asked. He studies how young children perceive adult words in foreign languages. The university is paying for him to move to China for a whole entire year.
But that's so cool! I practically squealed.
"Americans," Daniel said, shaking his head. "They're interested in the stupidest things. We have a world filled with children dying of hunger, and Americans are worried about moving to China and seeing how little kids perceive the English language." (original quote in Spanish)
So let me see if I can tie together my point here. It has been... *drum roll please*.... five months since I last blogged after all. My communication skills might be a little lacking.
There are big issues in this life, and there are small ones. My test tomorrow may look and feel big, but I feel pretty confident when I say that- in the grand scheme of things- it ends up looking pretty small.
And yes, the small things matter. In fact, I would argue that things our society calls small are actually big.
When a group of football players in Ohio decided several months ago that their status as athletes gave them rights over the body of a 16-year-old girl, they weren't worried about the big things. They were worried about a party. They were worried about their popularity. They were worried about their own needs.
And when things came to light, even their community was wrapped up in the small things, panicking about the loss of two football stars in the midst of a girl trying to process being raped.
It's an extreme example of not only rape culture, but also this incredible loss of perspective that I've been going on and on about.
And I think it's time that we get back to what's important.
I think it's time that we- and a whole lot of I- remember what is big and what is small.