I first heard about Lee a week before school started from the other teachers who worked in our Child Development Center. According to one of the teachers, Lee was going to be in the class that was one grade level above mine but spoke very limited English. At the time, I didn’t think much about it until I met him for the first time on the second day of school.
I was tasked with supervising a group of kids on the playground and noticed a chunky four-year-old boy who looked too serious for his age and didn’t seem too interested in playing outside with his classmates.
“Hi, what’s your name?” I came up to him and asked.
“Lee,” he replied shortly with a bored look on his face.
So this was him,I thought to myself. For the rest of that afternoon, I observed that he was a mostly quiet kid that liked to keep to himself and did not particularly enjoy playing outside.
Over the next few days, I continued to see him on the playground and always made a point to greet him since he was always hanging by the bench that I usually sat at. However, I was always met with that same bored look that spoke volumes about his interest in talking to me.
I later found out he was a very shy kid, and it took him a while to warm up to people. On top of that, he was still learning English and could only communicate a few words at a time. After several weeks passed, I was still not getting any responses from him, so I decided that it was going to be my own personal mission to befriend this child one way or another.
One rainy afternoon, the wet playground day forced all the kids inside the classroom, and I was left to watch them again. After doing a quick survey around the room, I noticed that Lee was alone playing with some toys on his table.
Should I approach him? I thought. I wasn’t sure if he was going to enjoy my company since it didn’t seem like he did the other times before. Deciding against my doubts, I chose to sit across from him but was content to let him play by himself. After a few minutes of watching the other kids, I decided to join Lee in hopes of finally connecting with him.
At first, he didn’t seem very open but after a few minutes, he eventually warmed up and let me play with him. My new resolve turned out to be a success! We spent the last forty-five minutes together pretending to be dinosaurs, having a dump truck race, and even threw a birthday party for the toy soldiers.
The next morning as I arrived on the playground, Lee’s eyes lit up as he saw me walk through the gates. He immediately walked up to me, pointed to himself and then to me.
“You touch,” he said while gesturing around the playground. I was honestly shocked; it was the most he had said to me since school started. However, I was not comprehending what he was trying to say.
“What do you mean?” I asked him.
“You touch!” he repeated as he slowly backed away from me. It took me several seconds to understand what he was trying to tell me before it hit me – he wanted to play tag! I was overjoyed at the thought that he had finally warmed up to me.
As I chased him around the playground that day, his laughter filled the air and warmed my heart as I thought about how my persistence hadn't been in vain.
Since arriving in Saipan in July, I have come to realize that doing God’s work is not for the faint of heart. There are many days when I often question my purpose here on this island, and whether God is truly working through me to minister to the children I work with. But as I look back fondly on this experience, I have come to realize that it is experiences like these that remind us of the reason why we choose to go out and serve in the first place.