As we turn the page on 2017, it is easy to give into despair for goals yet accomplished. However, if we dig deep enough, we all can be encouraged by those achievements, no matter how small, that have quietly touched the lives of others.
It was just a year ago, when I welcomed my daughter Hillary Seely home for Christmas. “Home” for us was in New South Wales, Australia. It was with great joy to have all my four children be reunited and especially, to see my daughter Hillary who had been serving in the Peace Corps., in a small village in a Southern Africa country called Lesotho.
Hillary was a graduate of West Liberty-Salem High school and The Ohio State University, though prior to attending either one of these institutions, she had it in her heart to serve and to become a member of the U.S. Peace Corps.
She had long decided that she wished to serve in Africa. That is where she felt her skills (as an educator) would be most needed. She also had volunteered to go to a rural community. I had my concerns as she discussed the trials and tribulations that were prevalent in this part of the world; including Aids and a culture in which women had fewer rights. Yet, I kept faith in Hillary and her choices.
Hillary’s assignment was indeed in rural Africa. She was fortunate (by village standards) to have her own home. It came however, without electricity or running water. Hillary stepped up to the occasion of fending for herself, acquiring the needed food and equipment to operate her little home and was creative in designing ways to capture and prepare foods, etc.
It was, however, her love of the children that kept her from despair in what was often, at best, trying times. You see, Hillary taught outdoors. The Christian school she was assigned, was no longer safe for occupants and therefore teaching was taken outside in the field. This is where the children were taught and also had to go to the toilet. Additionally, the teachers and children all spoke very little English and most conversation and lessons were in a language called; Basotho.
Hillary kept her promise and fulfilled her obligations for her assignment. I know this task was not easy. This small, outdoor school had never had a Peace Corp. volunteer. They had never had a Caucasian woman teach their children.
Between illnesses, bad weather, political strife and various red tape, Hillary rose to the occasion. She not only taught English, but she learned the native language and she broke barriers. Hillary wrote a government grant and achieved a financial goal in which she was able to raise money and have a new school built during her 2 ½ year volunteering assignment. With the exception of those around her, this achievement went quietly unnoticed. However, more than these accomplishments, Hillary accepted and gave love not only to her students, but to the staff and to people in a village she became a part of.
I know now, that there are days when Hillary reflects on her current teaching job in Columbus and sorely misses the days of celebrations with food, dance and singing children in Lesotho. I know that what she intended to give, actually came back to her in ways that most of us could not comprehend.
What I do hope for in the new year for my children; especially Hillary, is that she and in fact all of us, can appreciate that whether in small ways or large ways, we can find strength and encouragement from knowing, it is often in the quietest moments that we pass on light that can be life changing.
Elizabeth Jones recently returned to West Liberty, where she lives with her two youngest children. She has written inspirational short stories and articles related to her life experiences and those of her children.