Unconditional Love Found in Belize
The highlight of my Study Abroad in Belize experience was teaching the children; whether it was at Dorothy Menzies, Liberty House, or Caye Caulker School. But it was at Dorothy Menzies where my most poignant teaching memory was etched upon my heart as I read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to an orphaned Belizean toddler and in the process learned how powerful a book can be. Since I was not allowed to take photographs at Dorothy Menzies, I have included photographs from Caye Caulker School as to convey the high level of enthusiasm the children had for creating their own “Giving Tree” mosaic art after being read to.
When I entered Dorothy Menzies, children eagerly gathered near picnic tables to partake in the activities prepared for them by all the Washburn students. Suddenly, one little boy came and plopped himself on my lap; muddy hands and feet with a little blue ball in his left hand. His name was Keshawn and he listened to me read The Giving Tree along with a few teenage girls who had joined us. I was impressed by how mesmerized Keshawn was by the physical book itself, so I decided to let my very intrigued Belizean cohort turn the pages of the book about a little boy who was loved by a tree. He loved it! In the United States most children have a challenge paying attention during a story or sitting still enough to wait and hear the end. But not this little boy! He was absolutely enthralled! Keshawn along with the other children even wanted to talk about the characters especially the tree and why it loved the boy so much. After the story was done we began to create our own mosaic “Giving Trees” with Elmer’s glue, scissors, and a rainbow of colored construction paper.
I like to think that after reading this book to Keshawn that he had made a connection with the story’s message of unconditional love. And here I was thinking I was going to teach art through reading, but instead it was clearly a lesson on loves existence and the possibility of finding it. I feel so grateful to have had that moment at Dorothy Menzies with Keshawn and to have shown him my unconditional love by holding him on my lap (mud and all) and to watch him enjoy the written word. That day Keshawn had taught me that children just want to know they matter in this world! And to think if I had not torn off that piece of paper on a flyer hanging in Carnegie Hall that one afternoon I would have missed out on that moment. I just hope one day I can return to Belize to learn more about unconditional love. But until then, I will remember my little Keshawn with his wads of cut up construction paper stuck inside his Velcro pockets and his little blue ball in his muddy left hand.
Reading "The Giving Tree"
"Giving Tree" mosaic art
All in it together
Elmer's Glue and a rainbow of construction paper in action
A lesson in Love's Existence and The Possibility of Finding It