increase the effort

I sit on the cold floor, and inspect the circle of new faces around me. I reread their colorful name tags once again, repeating the pronunciation in my head. Their eyes look back at me, and we share a small smile, but we retreat back to blank expressions. I look back at the blackboard behind me, and look at the white writing, revealing our task at hand. I continue to stare, and contemplate the words. It shared our deepest concern of our school life, that the desire to be heard and accepted is not being fulfilled, but I couldn’t seem to see a solution in sight. It was coming to the final hour of this long day, and my eyelids were being weighed down, and my cheeks were sore and drooping from maintaining this smile on my face. I turn back to the same, unfamiliar faces, whose expressions echoed mine. Mr. Mundra’s voice asking our groups to begin planning how to learn more about this topic, gets muffled in my head, as I continue to focus on the eyes looking at me. The room’s air is filled with chatter and laughter, but I am surrounded by silence. I struggle to find words, to spark this conversation, and the only words that come out are “When do you all feel unheard?”. Their eyes shift in thought, but we all share a few words of feeling ignored at school by teachers or at home by our parents.

            In this moment, our goal felt so intangible. How can we help a school of students feel heard when we are not heard ourselves? How can we make people hear us when we are not the ones who need to lend an ear? And how can I find a solution, with people I just met today? My mind raced of easier goals to fulfill in the school, that just needed a quick fix, so I could work with my group easily and feel accomplished. But as I listened to them tell their stories of how they feel unheard, I realized that not one of us doesn’t struggle with this, and it is plaguing us all. The task at hand was large, but it was the most pressing in all of our lives. I thought back to the quote I saw during my time in Ahmedabad just a week ago now, “increase the effort, don’t decrease the goal.” I thought back to the endless positivity and love I was around during my time at ESI. This love was still in my heart, and although I was bogged down by nerves and frustration, I needed to fill this space with the same love. With more love, it will become easier to connect with these people who I feel like I know nothing about, and we can accomplish this together.

            The next day, with a rested mind and a full heart, I jumped into the situation, and I could tell the other members of my group were ready to do the same. We felt unstoppable.