Every new adventure comes with the challenging phase of leaving what you know and embracing the many changes that come with it. In anticipation for our move, lately I have been saying a lot of goodbyes. Doing so in one case struck me as surprisingly difficult. This is an open letter I wrote to my ESL learner after saying goodbye a couple of days ago.
It has been an absolute pleasure to help you learn English over the past four months. Your determination and perseverance is simply inspiring as you manage your job, a house full of kiddos, plus some major medical setbacks. Your progress is slow, but significant. I hope you do not get discouraged and you keep at it!
But really, I need to thank you. You offered me the chance to step completely out of my comfort zone and you welcomed me into your home to try my hand at something totally new. You were patient with me when I failed at explaining. You laughed at my dumb jokes. Together, we were frustrated at our inability to communicate, yet somehow in those moments, you encouraged me through a nod or a smile and we pressed on.
Somewhere within the process of lesson planning, pronunciation drills, writing each other “stories,” and repeating vocabulary cards, you taught me important lessons about myself. That I am lucky to be able to converse with the friendly sales clerk in the grocery store and neighbors at the bus stop, and never to take that for granted. You reminded me that although we come from incredibly diverse backgrounds, we have so much in common – the need to be accepted, desire to fit in, and aptitude to pass on kindness and enjoy laughter with one another despite tough barriers. And most importantly, you reminded me about the great reward that comes from giving. Your warmth and friendship in exchange for my time preparing lessons for us was worth it a hundred times over. This is something I will hold with me forever.
Saying goodbye to you and your children caught me completely off guard. Somehow I expected to walk out coolly and not look back. But I left tearful and very saddened – that I will not have the opportunity to experience your positivity and giggle with your cute kids again. That I am abandoning you so soon after we’d established trust, respect and patience with one another.
Please know that I will think of you often and I will celebrate your literary victories from afar. Though we entered one another’s lives for such a short period of time, I will be rooting for you and your kids for the rest of my life.
Buena suerte y muchas, muchas gracias, Lucía.