by Andrew Craig
As I stepped onto the plane, I could not help but hold my excitement. I sat down and started to remember the Holy Family School in Natchez, Mississippi: all the kids’ excited faces, the teachers’ strict but caring voices, and the Sisters’ joy and compassion. Step by step we were closer to Holy Family. We got off the plane in New Orleans, Louisiana, went to the van rental station, and began the 2½-hour drive to Natchez.
By the time we pulled in front of Sister Bernadette’s house it was about 9 o’clock at night. As soon as we walked into her house, Sister Bernadette and Sister Cathleen greet us all with hugs and
give us pasta they made. Sister Bernadette, or Sister B for short, and Sister Cathleen are two nuns from the Sisters of the Holy Spirit, and they are in charge of the Holy Family School. Sister B
helps to raise funds and donations for the school, and many times she has paid from her own pocket to make up for any tuition that the families in the school cannot afford. But as humble as their
living is, both Sisters welcome us into their home with open arms and laughter.
After Mass on Sunday and spending a day with the Sisters and with one another, we prepare for the week with the kids. As I get ready for bed and remember last year at the Holy Family School, I become excited to see the kids and teachers again.
The first thing we do everyday is sit with the kids as they come into the cafeteria to eat breakfast provided by the school. Dean and Benton, two of the two-year-olds, come up to our table, no idea why we are here, but ready to talk and play.
I am sitting here at my desk writing this article, and I cannot help but laugh as I think about one of the 4 year-old girls, Kaylin. One day, she comes up to me during recess, points to our vans, which are parked close to the school, and says “What are those big cars doing over there?” “Oh, those are our vans. We drove them over here and use them to go shopping for food,” I respond, kneeling so I can talk to her face to face. “Where do you shop,” Kaylin asks. “Do you know Walmart?” I ask her, expecting her to give a nod or a simple “yes.” Kaylin proceeds to put her hand on my shoulder and say, “Oh, I loooove Walmart! My mom and I go there all the time.”
If I were not looking at Kaylin right then and there, I would have thought that I was talking with an adult. She spoke with such maturity that I could not help but crack a smile when she said that. The week went on, all 21 of us helped around the school with tasks and resources that the teachers and Sisters needed.
There are so many amazing stories about the kids and how well the teachers instruct their students, or their “babies” as the teachers call them. But, I could never write all of it down within one article. One thing I can say, however, is that the Holy Family School truly is a family, and a blessed one at that. The three words that make up the title of this article are also the focus of Holy Family’s motto, “Learn so we can Live so we can Love.” The kids in that school are given a chance now so that they can get into better schools when they go into 1st grade. This small, Catholic school in Mississippi works with these children, most of whom are from lower socio-economic status, and the teachers help them to reach their full potentials.
Whether it was showing us what a rhombus looks like, reading and spelling, or even telling us about the story of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, these kids taught us what felt like more than we could ever teach them. They taught us the potential that every kid has. They also taught us about the kind of love a child is both willing to give and deserves to receive: an unconditional love. I feel blessed to have been able to work with such amazing children, teachers, and people down in Natchez, Mississippi, and I cannot wait to see all the kids, and especially talk with Kaylin more about Walmart.