She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
George Gordon Byron
Her brilliant peacock-colored sari swished as she ushered me into her office and pulled up a chair. With a clear-eyed gaze that radiated intelligence she began to tell me her story.
Raised in a village not far from where we sit, about an hour outside a major Indian city, she didn’t have many advantages in life. But she did have one: education. She was one of the fortunate few. Although her family didn’t have much money, they valued education and made it a priority for Shanti and her sister—very unusual in India a generation ago.
Shanti loved school. She loved the smell of chalk, the sound of it scraping on the blackboard, the murmur of her classmates as they practiced their sums, the teachers who gently guided her. As her body grew, so did her thirst for knowledge. Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, Physics, English, Hindi, and her native tongue, Telegu, all found their distinct places in her bright mind. And she flourished.
Shanti didn’t tell anyone right away, but she had a dream. She wanted to teach. She wanted to be the one standing in front of children at the blackboard, opening their minds and witnessing that “light bulb moment” when a student understands something new for the very first time.
Fast forward a few years and Shanti achieved her dream: she became a licensed and certified teacher with a Bachelor’s degree and two Masters’ degrees. She taught primary children and loved every minute. But her thirst for knowledge made her yearn for something more. She wanted to be a principal. She wanted to oversee curriculum, support teachers, and care for an entire community of children and their families.
Fast forward a few more years to her office where I sat listening to her story. She’s now a principal at one of your Good Shepherd schools. She’s one of a brand new cadre of highly qualified, professional educators responsible for some of India’s most vulnerable children, the children you support. Her face beams as she tells me story after story of students who are excelling and how she supports them, students who are struggling and how she supports them, students who have challenging family situations and how she is caring for them.
I followed Shanti to each classroom in that school–from the shy three-year-olds in the lower Kindergarten room who are adjusting to being away from home the first time, to the adolescent 10th standard students who will be sitting for their board exams next March–their ticket to college, university, and the rest of their lives.
In each classroom, Shanti commanded attention. Not by demanding it or cajoling it, but by earning it. She has earned the respect of her teachers, her students, and the families she serves. She is a gifted educator who followed God’s call on her life to serve others.
“She walks in beauty like the night” thrummed through my mind the entire time I was with Shanti (maybe because I’m a former literature teacher!). Shanti embodied dignity, grace, and professionalism. She embodied beauty in that school–not the physical kind–but the kind of beauty that goes deeper. She embodied beauty of the heart.
Shortly before I left the school Shanti asked us to pray about something. I said, “Of course,” and asked her what I could pray about with her. “I need a car,” she admitted shyly. “To get to school I must take the bus for one hour each way. I’m happy to do it because I know God has brought me here, but it is difficult for my family.”
I was stunned. Here was this highly educated woman, charged with the administration of a 300-student school and she had to take public transportation to get to work? “Only in India,” I thought. I promised her I would pray that God would provide a car for her.
Friends, that’s the kind of commitment our teachers make, our principals make. Personal sacrifice means little to them because they know they hold the future of India in their hands. The stakes are high.
As our kids return to school in the Great Kid Comeback, would you consider supporting our educators and students with a special gift this month? Maybe–just maybe–people like you will be generous enough to get Shanti the car she desperately needs. Maybe you will be the answer to her prayers this month.