A few weeks ago after class, one of my students from the community college asked me if I believed in saints.
I immediately responded, “yes.”
Then I said, “no.”
This student is a Mexican American and strongly devout Catholic. She is an amazing student. She works so hard and has finished her education in America, choosing to attend a 4 year university in Mexico next fall, with the hopes of obtaining a degree and then helping her home country by staying there to work. She has been an ongoing thoughtful and dedicated student. She honestly has worked 100 times harder than any American born student I have had this year.
With her strong Catholic upbringing, she was confused by my response.
I tried my best to explain to her that my emotional and immediate response of “yes” was due to my own Catholic upbringing, but that my second response, “no,” was my more rational, non-Catholic belief that of course sainthood is something made up by organized religion and utterly false.
In essence, she didn’t get it. Which, to be honest, I don’t either. It’s the yin and yang of my feelings about religion.
But today, after she finished her final, she came up to me and thanked me profusely for teaching her this semester. She said she feels much more confident in her speaking and writing abilities. She then presented me with a beautiful bracelet as a gift and said that although I may not believe in saints, she does and that she prays for me and my family every night.
This gift overwhelms me with appreciation. I know this student doesn’t make very much money, and I also know that she helps support her family. I also appreciate, and am a bit jealous of, her unwavering religious faith. I wish I could have the same degree of faith that she does.
And this bracelet is beautiful. Meaningful. I’m glad that she is moving on with her life, though I know this country will be a worse off without her kindness and dedicated work ethic. I’m also sorry that I won’t see her on campus next year and have the ability to watch her grow even more as a student and woman.
I hope I have many more students like her. I hope I said all the right things when I gushed at how nice her gift was. Finally, I hope I can one day be a bit more like her.
Tonight, I am thankful for this student, Maria.