When people ask me why I desire to teach, I usually counter with a quick practiced response saying, "I like to see those light bulbs sparkle in the minds of children." If you have never seen the face of a child light up when they have finally mastered a tedious concept, then you have not lived a fulfilled life. I discovered a passion for enhancing the enlightenment of others while tutoring at my church. I will never forget that thin framed, ebony young man who ignited a fire for education I never knew I possessed. Jacob was maybe ten or eleven when I was active in Mount Hebron's tutoring program. Oddly enough, I vividly remember the pure white hue of the whites of his bold brown eyes. Eyes unmarred by social, economic and chemical ills that plague the masses of the young men just a few years his senior. Unlike the whites of my eyes that had seen the beginning brunt of life’s harsh truth. Truths I did not have ample opportunity to digest because they are also accompanied by restlessness. Young Jacob still possessed that joyful innocence that the world prematurely strips from our youth.
He was a child I would love to create from my own loins. Unscarred, flawless, ebony skinned, adolescent brother caring limbs to which he had not yet grown accustomed. His face housed big, almost excessively dramatic, brown eyes that pierced my soul. Large pearly white teeth, which he was just catching up with, mastered a smile that seemed to radiate through my very being. He was full of life. But, I saw all that fade when his mother or her significant other came to pick him up. I could never make out whether that was his father or not. It felt as if his aura had been snatched up and bottled, only to be released outside the presence of his household.
Our time together was always tedious to say the least. He was more interested in wrestling, cartoons and computer games than homework. It was obvious that he needed a little more practice and repetition than I did at that age. He did not grasp concepts as quickly as I might have; a quality I have always taken for granted. Not a slow individual by any stretch of the imagination, but he was easily and heavily distracted by the smallest un-conducive things. This was amplified by the fact that the tutoring program was held in a computer lab with several other kids scrapping for the time of only two or three tutors. Although unfounded, I concluded that he had to exude all of him before his mother arrived for pick up. This meant he had to have all the fun he could in a small window. Least common denominators are not exactly pillars of excitement. So I had to work diligently to maintain his full attention.
Through all of that I was able to breakthrough his youthful quirks and hold successful tutoring sessions. However, he was doing more tutoring, teaching, and revelation revealing than he knew he was even capable of performing. It did not take long before I witnessed that first light bulb. His eyes widened and even his dark cheeks seemed to blush with excitement as he quietly yelled, “I think I got it!” He looked over at me and I wanted to counter with, “I think I got something too!” What I had gotten I could not explain. It was radiating warmth in a frigid place. I was piecing together parts of a blank puzzle. It was the catharsis of uncertain emotions. Boy, what the hell did you just do to me? This uncertain feeling was something I wanted all the time. I could not allow it to escape me. So I went back weekly to those Tuesday tutoring sessions, in that crowded computer lab, on the upper level of my church to search out that feeling. I had not yet discovered that I was actually searching out self. So on the second level of Mount Hebron Church Ministries, in that crowded computer lab, on a random Tuesday evening, in the Fall of 2006, I found my passion for education.
I wonder where Jacob is now four years later. His voice is likely deeper. The appearance of peach fuzz is probably driving him and some lil’ pissy tale girl wild. I wonder if he continued our routine of repetition. I wonder if he has grown too old to run up to me after eleven o’clock service to give me that bright eyed, brief run down of his presently most pressing academic issue. I wonder how he interpreted the world. Did he let it get to him? Or, did he get to it. Did I teach him anything he really needed? How many temptations can you ward off with least common denominators? He probably has no idea what he has done for me. I have to make sure I let him know.