T.A.G.: Trust Advances Growth
Step front step back, turn, turn, step front step back…my feet mimicked the steps of the Lilapur students and my hands danced with the rhythm of the music humming in my ears. Swirls of dust enveloped my legs as I danced lap after lap. My mouth opened to another sheepish grin, and when looking up from the tree root that marked another lap, I made eye contact with a young boy with a goofy smile. His eyebrows dared me to chase him, so I sneakily put on a nonchalant expression, turning around and pretending to ignore him. In a bit I peered over my shoulder, and as I had predicted, the little boy had inched closer. I could not help it anymore. I burst out laughing and running. Streaks of sweat ran down my head and gathered as little teardrops on my nose. The little guy darted past the wooden posts, the corners and hiding spots of the school on the back of his hand. And so I knew I was going to need a little backup. Perfect! Another group of curious kids caught on, wanting to join this amusing game. We pieced together my few phrases of Gujarati, their strings of English, and a bunch of hand motions to devise a plan to catch the little boy. Our huffs and puffs amalgamated. Our parched throats and sweaty bodies together longed for the taste of victory. I paused, and watched the focused pairs of eyes and the loving and spunky spirits of these village children. I needed no words to speak to them, as they listened to my hands and my eyes.
A simple game of tag introduced me to this little boy, whose name I learned was Jay. He sneaked up behind me multiple times afterwards, his face always challenging me to chase after him. And he trusted that I would play again with him. Devendra Bhai imparted to us that change within the community starts with games and playing with the kids. Trust is what builds more. The education and sanitation projects. Jay prompted me again to follow him, and this was the last round, so I could not resist. I followed his lead and ended up meeting his grandfather. This small gesture of trust made my nose and my eyes sting (this time not from the spiciness of Indian food).
I do not really know Jay’s living situation. I do not know what he “needs.” However, relationships are not started and trust is not built if I barge in with what I believe is the best, ideal way or if I plan big projects with no intention to start small or foster trust with whom it pertains to. I started with a small game of tag. An exciting game that Jay liked. We are most likely not coming back to Lilapur on this Niswarth trip. I presume Jay will not remember me, nor will he remember our game of tag. But maybe this short time of bonding over tag and playing at school will make Jay love coming to school even more.