GIV­ING

ZOOMER Magazine - - REINVENTION - by Anne O’Ha­gan

FIVE P.M. on a Tues­day, mid-win­ter. I’m sit­ting in the base­ment of St. Cyril’s Mace­do­nian Ortho­dox Church in Re­gent Park in down­town Toronto. Teenagers drift in – by turns chatty, solemn, ef­fu­sive, shy. Quickly they shed their coats to col­o­nize the bare beat-up ta­bles with all their en­ergy, at­ti­tude and per­sonal ef­fects (mostly phones). The room is bathed in a flat flu­o­res­cent light. This is where I spend ev­ery Tues­day af­ter­noon dur­ing the school year, tutoring high school kids whose worlds couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent from my own. “Do you do His­tory?” they ask. “Do” is what they call it. Yes, I say. With tutoring, I’ll take on any­thing. What do I have to lose? English, French, his­tory, law, so­cial sciences (just not my pho­bia sub­ject: math).

So this is how I’ve come to read Romeo and Juliet with a 14-year-old Afghan girl, writ­ten Pla­tonic di­a­logue with a 17-year-old (who had to Google Aris­to­tle first), edited es­says com­posed by chil­dren for whom English is a fifth lan­guage. East In­dian, African, Asian kids, all new Cana­di­ans, try­ing to find pur­chase in this steep, craggy up­hill scram­ble of life. There are kids whose ADD is worse than their English, kids who’d re­ally rather talk about my hair and bright ones who know ex­actly why they’re there. If they boost their grades and qual­ify for a schol­ar­ship, they get a ticket out of Dodge.

To this, peo­ple re­act with ad­mi­ra­tion. Re­mark­able, they say. Ev­ery week? So gen­er­ous. In Re­gent Park? Wow. But here’s the thing: it’s a two-way street. For ev­ery minute of my time I give these kids, un­know­ingly, they pay me back. Their cur­rency is in­sight, ap­pre­ci­a­tion, hope. These kids open my eyes, keep me sharp, make me smile. I see my­self more clearly in this en­vi­ron­ment, sur­rounded by chil­dren who have no idea of their present and fu­ture power. That’s what “giv­ing” is to me. I give to feel more like my­self.

“The jour­ney, not the ar­rival, mat­ters”

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