When I walked into Trinity Presbyterian Church on the first day of tutoring with Love in Action, there was a crowd of children playing rambunctiously. They were of all running about, giggling, squealing, tickling one another, and braiding each other’s hair. A group of elementary aged girls were in the corner dancing to their favorite pop songs, while a group of boys were chasing each other. I was a bit nervous being surrounded by so much energy at 10am on a Saturday morning.
The leaders of LIA led me over to one of the oldest girls in the bunch, Dorbor, and said that the two of us would be working together. They thought it would be rewarding and sentimental to have us paired together for four years until we both graduated.
I was surprised by how quickly Dorbor warmed up to me. She excitedly led me to her workspace and we immediately jumped into her math and English homework. I remember asking her what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said, “I want to go to Duke to study biology.”
I was surprised by how clear her vision for the future was. When I first heard about LIA, I was told that most of the students came from the homes of Liberian refugees who were not used to the American school system and needed extra help with their school work. This was also true for Dorbor, but she was incredibly focused on achieving her goal in a way I had not expected.
As the weeks passed, I realized that this desire for success actually came from her parents’ heritage as refugees. Her mother had invested time, money, and energy into her daughter’s education, because she had never had that. I realized that tutoring Dorbor was part of a plan that had already been set in motion.
Pieces began falling into place. Her grades in math steadily increased. Her writing skills flourished as she sent me papers to look over during the week. But even more surprising was how my relationship with Dorbor developed.
Now, each week when she sees me, she hugs me. She is happy to see me, and I am just as excited to work with her. It is not that tenth grade math is riveting or that revisiting topics such as allegories, rhyme, and onomatopoeia are particularly enlightening, but that I have noticed I am actually making a difference in her life, and she is changing my life.
Through LIA I found a friend. We are from very different backgrounds. I am a country girl from a rural public school in Central Pennsylvania who is studying at an Ivy League University, and she is an inner city high school student and a child of Liberian refugees. Yet, despite all odds, God found a way in His divine providence to connect us.
Although I had joined LIA from a somewhat selfish standpoint of wanting to feel good by doing good, God had transformed that desire into a passion for tutoring. Almost unbeknownst to me, He had changed my heart to make me want to serve Him by serving Dorbor. In Matthew 5:16, Christ calls us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
I had always heard Matthew 5:16 and wondered what exactly my light is. But, from working with LIA and specifically with Dorbor, I have realized that my light is my passion for serving the Lord. This is a passion that the Lord gives to me and that I use in order to give back to Him. God gave me the opportunity to work with Dorbor, he uses her cheerful, encouraging spirit to build me up just as He uses my education and desire to help to build her up.
Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” This verse points the focus back to God from whom all good things come. I have no right to keep my time to myself as it was never wholly mine, but God’s. In fact, the sacrifices we make, as mentioned in Hebrews 13, are really just returning to God what belongs to Him. His rewards for our sacrifices are even greater than the time, money, and energy we give up. I have come to realize that the time God has given me at Brown is a gift and that through this gift I must share with others, and LIA has become an extremely rewarding way of doing just that.
Alana Felton is a sophomore concentrating in Slavic Studies.