For our COS conference, we listened to a segment of the podcast/radio show “This I Believe,” and constructed our own statements of belief based on our experiences in Ethiopia. Here’s mine:
I used to believe that arts were a luxury. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I imagined there’d be more pressing issues in international development than giving books to kids. That was before I met Natty. Natty is the best student in my eighth grade spoken English class. He can conjugate future tense, ask questions about abstract topics, and understand jokes I mutter under my breath when I think I just can’t handle it anymore. Natty is respectful, brave, and admired by his peers. He is an exceptional student, one I will remember my whole life. When I invited my students to come to my house after school to practice reading in English, Natty was the first one there and the last one to leave. He grabbed a copy of Charlotte’s Web and glued himself to the rocking chair outside my house. He didn’t just read, either. Natty thought about themes in the book–loyalty, courage, friendship–and discussed the story’s contents with me every night. When Natty finished the tale of Wilbur’s lucky life, he sat on the bench and said, wow. We talked more about the book, and then Natty said, Amanda, there’s something I need to tell you. I thought he was just asking for another book, but then he shared his biggest secret. Amanda, Natty said, my father isn’t a doctor in Shashemene like I told you before, he’s a prisoner. Natty explained how his father had been betrayed by rural elders who wanted to embezzle the livestock he was entrusted to distribute to People Living with HIV/AIDS in the countryside. Charlotte’s Web reminded Natty of the complex and unfair way his father left his life. The humanities, even thin books as simple as Charlotte’s Web, aren’t a luxury. They are a necessity. This I believe.