I’ve learned a lot from the three months I’ve been working with the GRC, but one of the most valuable things I’ve learned is to take pleasure in small victories. I hope and feel that this is an attitude that most of the staff and volunteers share. Dozens of people come through the office every day for classes, for help with their bills, for job applications, even for the simplest of things like diapers, soap or toothpaste. Most of the time we can help them. It is, after all, our goal as a non-profit. But sometimes we can’t. Some days the classes are frustrating for students. They couldn’t quite understand what the teacher was saying. Some days we are just out of diapers, especially when everyone comes in needing the same size. For those days when something just doesn’t click, it’s always nice to remember the small victories, every other time that we have helped them, because again, these successes generally outweigh the defeats.
Today I’d like to take a moment to celebrate a small victory that’s been a long time coming. One of the things that I do in the office is college tutoring for one of the students, Abdirashid, who attends community college. Abdirashid is taking a college composition course and at least once a week, I help him edit his papers and assignments for this class. A few weeks ago, we started working on his final paper, an argumentative essay using outside sources. His first draft was rough: there were a lot of grammar issues, he hadn’t been using outside sources, and his topic didn’t have an argument. These are issues that many beginning writers have, but of course, with ESL students, minor issues are always a bit more complicated. So we’ve been working on the paper for a few weeks. He’s been through a few rough drafts and comments from his instructor and from me.
Today, he asked me to read his essay one last time before he turned it in. I sat down with my editor’s eyes, looking to catch the last few tiny errors that maybe he had missed, but in reading found none. Not only was his grammar and punctuation proficient, but the essay was great. His thesis was clear and concise, his paragraphs were well structured, and his sources were relevant and properly cited; I could see the improvement in his writing from the first essay I had edited. I literally cheered. I think that I scared one of the office assistants, Asad, who asked me what I was doing. After explaining the excellence of the essay, Asad also cheered, congratulating Abdirashid right along with me.
In the grand scheme of the world, these things are small and insignificant. A well written college composition essay, or a new vocabulary word or even a bar of soap and a pack of diapers won’t change the world. But here, it’s the small victories that count, and hopefully, over time, add up to something bigger.