It’s the busiest time of the year for me – juggling work, family and planning for two events. I’ve been hosting events for 10 years now, and I’m surprised each year how stressful it is. It’s not easy to fundraise, and it’s especially hard to raise money for projects in East Africa. I often get asked why I choose to support something that is so far away when there are needs right here in our own backyard. For me, the answer is easy. I choose to love, and love has no boundaries. Loving has given me purpose. It fulfills me. It gives me hope.
Sometimes love is blind. It was when I met 9-year-old Terence Crawford. Terence is now a World Boxing Champion. When I met him, he was my fourth-grade student at a school in the inner city of Omaha, Nebraska. This was a tough job at a tough school. Terence was rambunctious and eager to please. He liked getting my attention and making me laugh. He was also competitive and inquisitive. I fondly remember his big smile and the camouflage outfit that he often wore. I also remember going to watch him play basketball. He made sure I was watching before he’d take each 3-point shot!
What I didn’t know about 9-year-old Terence, is that he’d become an important person in my life. I lost track of Terence until I reconnected with him in the summer of 2014. I’d been following Terence’s career and was so proud of his accomplishments. I messaged him on Facebook to see if he remembered me and to congratulate him on his success. He did remember me! He told me I was his favorite teacher (along with Ms. Tapscott). Wow! Terence asked me to come to his next fight which was going to be in Omaha. I was going to be in Uganda so couldn’t attend but made plans to have lunch with him following my trip and his fight.
Seeing Terence as a young adult brought back many memories. I wanted to hear all about how he was doing, but he was so eager to learn about my travels to Africa. He wanted to know everything. He asked me to take him there, so I did 6 weeks later.
Being a tour guide in Uganda and Rwanda is like being a teacher. I get to introduce people to new sights and experiences. We get to share simple joys and preventable heartaches. It brings you together. It makes you think about what’s important and it sparks deep thoughts and questions. Terence talked about growing up in north Omaha. He thought he was poor but realized that he didn’t really know about extreme poverty. He also thought that all cultures practiced an “eye for an eye” but learned that forgiveness and reconciliation is actually possible like we witnessed through the Cows for Peace program in Rwanda.
Terence’s family and friends still call me “Teacher”. Somebody once told him that I’m not a teacher anymore and Terence’s responded that I’m still his teacher. He said, “She’s still teaching me.” I loved that he said that, and I could say the same thing to him. Terence is my teacher too. He’s told me what it’s like to be a kid on the streets, why most people he knows don’t get married, what it’s like to be an African American in the inner city… What I learned, is that if you want to be a good teacher, you have to be a good listener.
We are all on our own journey, and for the most part, we all want the same things. Terence once told me that the reason he didn’t get into trouble in my fourth-grade class was because he knew I cared about him. This was such a wonderful lesson to learn. I want to provide water for villages who don’t have access to clean drinking water, to provide treatment for kids suffering from cancer, and to offer an opportunity for education as a way out of poverty, but I don’t have to do all those things in order to make a difference. I just have to care.
Terence, thank you for being my teacher and letting me be yours.