Is anything sustainable in this impermanent world in which we live? Yes. Growing our hinterland of thinking is the one key element to success in life. I am not talking about material success. I am referring to success as living with contentment and love and laughter and enjoying what we do and who we are. I want St Jude’s to deliver dreamers. Our world needs dreamers. And dreamers are not only the ones who want to break the ties that bind them to their physical reality, but they are the people who can imagine another space, or time, or way of being.
The modern world, so intent on describing everything and measuring it in minuscule terms, I think has gone horribly askew! We need to shift our thinking away from using check boxes and trite statements. We need to shift our gaze to the hearts and minds of those whom we seek to educate. We have to recognise that sustainability, itself, a big, but somewhat non-descript word, must not cloud our awareness. I want our children to understand themselves and become habitual imaginers, able to create a reality out of precious little. It will be in their understanding of themselves and the lives they create for themselves, that we will find the true, sustained, impact of our work here.
Since coming to St Jude’s from South Africa three months ago, I am convinced that our measure of sustainability will be best seen if our children at St Jude’s become avid readers. Readers of novels, fiction! If we can expose small children to make-believe, fantasy and fiction, we give them the opportunity to construct something in their minds out of words on a page. Holding a book, even when my arthritic hands get sore, is still a reminder, especially when the book is wonderful, of the gravitas of a good book. I have just finished reading a wonderful biography of a movie director. I have never seen any of his films, but I feel now that I know him and in fact, feel that I have seen his movies. All of this, from reading his words.
The modern world thinks that sustainability must be measured, but the crucial indicator of success will be visible in those of our students who not only read, but who love to read. Reading for the pure pleasure of it, will be a true test of St Jude’s impact and sustainability. If one has to use the infamous checklist, then it should have one statement: “The children who went through St Jude’s love to read.” Nothing more and nothing less.
If education is to lift our children out of poverty, it means they need to imagine another world. How can they imagine another world, another feeling that they do not know, if they do not build their imagination? How can they build their imagination? By reading! It is so very simple. It sounds a bit like a cliché, but it is most certainly so that readers become leaders. And, any really good leader, is almost certainly going to be an avid reader.
It is something of a litmus test. We have seen this time and time again. Reading deposes despair, nurtures grace and strengthens our souls. I want our kids to value their silent space, even amidst the loud chatter and noise of the market and the spaza shop. I want them to put reading before movies. I want them to seek out books to read. I will live with their reading kindles. But I will be overjoyed if they read books.
I want St Jude’s descendants to feel that warm glow of having a book and a space, even if it is on a cramped bus seat, that is wholly theirs, and into which they can escape.
If our St Jude’s students are avid readers, we will have succeeded in putting into Arusha, a sustainable life-giving force. Somebody once said that we read to know we are not alone. We will not only all be alone and very lonely, but we will rapidly lose our humanity, if we do not hold tight onto the reading thread, fragile though it may be.
Take a look at our book wish list – give today to help us broaden students’ imaginations!