I remember the first time I saw the Gray Man and his Grandson.
I was walking to the metro to get to class, by myself because Kelsey headed to her class earlier that morning. As usual, I was distracted by the poetry of Sevilla. The streets lined with orange trees, walls lined with graffiti, and of course I was a little distracted by my punctual tardiness. I was almost lost in my attempt to blend in with the locals when I noticed an old man and a younger man – maybe in his late 20s-early 30s – walking very, very slowly. The old man had a cane and was hunched over like the old men that you see in movies. The younger man had one arm gently placed on the old man’s back and the other lightly placed on the older man’s arm, as to support him. They walked, inch by inch, down the sidewalk. I’ve seen the Gray Man and his Grandson a few times since then, and have had the chance to look at the Gray Man’s feet. They moved almost in slow-motion, literally one inch at a time. And his Grandson moved just as slowly. Sometimes I would see him talking to his grandfather, probably just a simple conversation about the weather or something. One time, I had the chance to flash him a smile, just to show him that I saw what he was doing, and that his compassion hasn’t gone unrecognized, and he responded with a sincere and pleasant smile.
* * *
Today has been kind of a downer for me. Before we leave the country, the UTA Study Abroad office has an orientation that goes over things to expect while abroad. They showed us kind of a chart of how our emotions will be during our stay. At the beginning, we’d be at the top of the chart with excitement and nervousness (but the good kind). Then, we’d reach a very low point in which we’d be overwhelmed by new places, customs, cultures, and homesickness. I think I’m pretty much at that point. I’m overwhelmed by the newness of everything, and how quickly things happen. Like, my group of friends here. We all became the best of friends almost instantly! It’s definitely not a bad thing, but it’s an example of how quickly things are happening here. I’m also discouraged by the level of which I speak Spanish. When you’re in a high school Spanish class with most of your classmates who don’t exactly love the subject, it’s easy to feel like your level of Spanish is pretty advanced. But then you get into a program like this, where you’re surrounded by students who are just as passionate and have worked just as hard if not harder to learn this language, and it’s totally humbling. Today, I went to an institute where I will be teaching English for two hours a week. I went with two other girls from our program who will also be working there. We sat and talked with the director and a couple other professors about which level we’ll be helping with, and our schedules. I was feeling timid, so I let the other girls do the talking. The directors were sure to compliment them on how well they spoke Spanish, and smiled with excitement knowing that they would work greatly with the kids. Towards the end of our meeting, the director decided that I would be teaching the 14 year olds, and she asked the teacher of that age group (who had been in the room speaking with us as well) if that was okay with her, and she seemed dissatisfied. To me, it sounded like she was making reasons for me to not teach her class, which made me feel like maybe she would have preferred someone who had a higher level of Spanish-speaking. It’s easy for me to get down on myself when I feel like I’m not good enough. Especially at something that I love, like Spanish. Today’s experience was one more Jenga block placed carefully at the top of a tall tower that could collapse at the slightest move…
I walked around today a little bit slower than usual (partly because of my slightly injured foot…) and with less energy jolting through me. By the time I was walking home from the metro, I could feel the tears building up within me. All I wanted to do was fall into my bed, put my face in my pillow and cry. More than anything, I felt a need to see the Gray Man and his Grandson. Just to have a glimpse of peace, of something positive.
Then I thought to myself…I wonder if the Gray Man ever gets discouraged. I wonder if he ever has days where he feels like crying because the world is moving so quickly, while every day he struggles to move only inch by inch. I pictured him at home sitting in a chair with his head in his hand and a broken heart, discouraged. Then I thought of his Grandson, who wouldn’t allow his grandfather to give up and let go of courage. Who walks with him day by day, inch by inch, telling him simple things and sweet things. I wondered if he ever felt discouraged. If he ever wished he were spending his days hanging out with his friends or pursuing some kind of dream instead of walking up and down the sidewalk, almost in slow-motion, with his grandfather.
But I bet you tomorrow I’ll see them. The Gray Man pushing through, getting his share of sunlight. His Grandson talking to him about news and weather. I bet that I could smile at him in appreciation, and he would reply with that peaceful, pleasant smile with no sign of dissatisfaction with his circumstances.
Tonight after dinner, my host mom told us, “Mañana va a ser un día nuevo.” Tomorrow is a new day. She’s right. I might feel discouraged and overwhelmed, but doesn’t everyone get that way? It’s life. “Who could add a day to the life by dreading every dark sky?” I have so much going for me right now, and I know that in my struggle, God is holding me close. He loves me way too much to watch me sit with my head in my hands and a broken heart. He won’t allow me to lose courage. He is walking with me, holding me gently and speaking to me simply and sweetly, day by day, inch by inch.