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La Campeona by Tiffany Doria

As some of the kids at La Escuela de los Campiones laughed and played with their special guests, I noticed one quiet girl at the other side of the table. In my best Spanish I said “Buenas dias! Como se llama?” I didn’t get the response I expected. She barely looked up from her coloring. Telma, the head teacher at the school, pulled up a chair for me and invited me to sit down. I pointed to the girl’s picture. “Que bonita!” I tried to make some connection with her, but nothing yet. Mariela was written on the pencil box in front of her. “Su nombre? Mariela? - Me llamo Tiffany.” Still, there was no recognition of my attempt at friendliness. I sat there watching her coloring her picture, only being distracted for a few sporadic seconds when one of the other kids wanted to snap a picture or show me something. “Can I help you color? Puedo ayudar?” I asked Mariela. I got excited when she nodded. “Que color?” She thought for a bit then pointed to a crayon. “Esto?” – again she nodded. “Donde?” She took a moment again, then pointed to a spot on the coloring page. I colored and she watched. I watched her watch me, scared that she might get mad at me for coloring wrongly - but she just patiently watched.

We continued coloring together like this until we finished the picture. “Este color? Donde? Aqui?” Each time she nodded or pointed out her answers to my questions, I felt so happy. Each response was like a big win. I thought I was the one reaching out to a quiet girl, but actually the reverse was happening.

Mariela was reaching out to me, letting me into her world. I felt accepted and welcomed, when initially I was the one trying to make her feel accepted and comfortable.

Mariela taught me that sometimes the best outcomes happen when you let others lead. I tend to want to control the situations I’m in, but Mariela took that control away from me. She forced me to truly listen. Listen to her silence, and wait for her response. She taught me to appreciate humility in my relation- ships with others and with God. I hope to make my conversations with others and my prayers to God as simple as my conversation with Mariela. And to have that same feeling of happiness and satisfaction when I receive a true response.

Tiffany Doria
Catechist Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
Fremont, California
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