So I was a bit nervous. I had visited a Freedom School before but this was different. This time I had to read aloud to a roomful of kids. I was to read about Li Chi, a Chinese maiden who volunteered to be eaten by a dragon. Instead, she killed the dragon and saved the village. The irony of it crossed my mind as I stepped to the front of the classroom. She was out there killing dragons and I was trembling at the thought of reading a book to a group of kids.
Both Metanoia and Charleston Youth Development Center have Freedom Schools. They both encourage youngsters to overcome obstacles and to be strong in the face of adversity. They make “summer school” fun with chants, songs, and hard work that is rewarded with shout-outs of praise. The students at both Metanoia and Charleston Youth Development Center come from disadvantaged families. They face greater adversity than I ever do or did and probably about as much as Li Chi did in killing her dragon.
I read my piece. The students broke into a practiced ritual of singing a song that began with the words “That was awesome…” Those words were followed by other words fit together nicely but I was no longer able to listen. I failed to hear much after the “That was awesome…” part because the waves of thanks and adoration washed over me. It made me realize the power of praise and how infrequently many of these kids get any of it in their regular lives.
It also made me realize how fortunate I am, not because I get praise, but because I witnessed the raw power of praise and how it changes a kid’s life.