ESL to Go is lucky enough to have Catherine Pearson teaching two of our classes. Catherine earned her TESL certification from TFLI in 2004, and is a beautiful writer, storyteller and teacher. We wanted to share her reflections, inspired by her Valentine’s Day classes.

Please take the time to read her wise words, and allow yourself, like we have, to heed her refreshing advice.

Catherine with ESL to Go students

Last week I hosted back-to-back Valentine’s Day parties for my ESL classes. My students enthusiastically embraced the potluck concept and by Thursday night I had over-indulged in homemade dishes from around the globe. With Bosnian meat pies, Russian salad, Mexican quesadillas and Vietnamese pork rolls, we had the world on a plate.

The wealth of food was “too much” according to my students, who meant to say “a lot.” In this case, “too much” was spot on. Equally appropriate was the Spanish word I had forgotten to say, “Bastante.”

About 12 years ago I spent a summer studying in Spain. The first week there, over dinner, a fellow student espoused her love of the word “bastante” declaring its meaning richer than its English translation,“enough.” Inwardly I was skeptical. The definitions seemed identical.

As the weeks passed, and I shared meal after meal with Spaniards, I witnessed the distinction she favored. When offered yet another serving of paella, gazpacho or bread, my fellow diners relished the meal not by stuffing themselves beyond comfort, but by saying, “Bastante.” They savored the present satisfaction and declined the offer of more. They were fulfilled. “Bastante” appreciated the subtle yet powerful awareness and enjoyment of “enough.”

I grew to admire the Spanish art of “bastante,”but my first language was an American version of English, in which “enough” could and should be improved. My homeland had taught me to strive for more. I had been schooled and skilled in maximizing every moment of life. If one is good, two must be better. From baked goods to academic degrees, this application knows few limits. It also cultivates a culture of scarcity, or “never enough.” We never have enough time in the day or money in the bank. Our cars, jobs, educations, backgrounds and experiences are never enough. From the moment we wake, after a night of too little sleep, we embark on the day with a deficit. (Researcher and author Brené Brown does a great job of explaining what I am briefly summarizing here. Check out her books and TED talks.)

This sense of scarcity zooms in on our very selves. We are never productive enough, successful enough, educated enough, thin enough, strong enough, funny enough, beautiful enough, smart enough or efficient enough. In short, we are never enough.

But that’s not true. We are enough. You are enough. Right now, even without slogging through your work email, completing the grant submission, getting your hair colored, losing the weight, interviewing for the job, finishing school, paying off the loans, buying the house, passing the test, or knowing what in the world comes next. You are enough.
For some, this is a given. But most of us suffer from daily amnesia of this truth. Fortunately, a remedy is readily available. The antidote to scarcity is gratitude, according to Brené Brown. Being thankful for what we have often makes it enough.

As I look at my borrowed bed, covered in ESL books, I am grateful for opportunities to teach, for students who overcome dozens of hurdles to walk to class and with limited English proficiency still find ways to crack jokes. I am grateful when my amateur attempts at acting out sports or animals elicit more of their laughter.

I am grateful for daily chances to learn about my students’ lives, homelands, cultures and customs, for invitations to swap recipes, share favorite foods and meet their families. I am grateful for my bedroom littered with teaching paraphernalia and gifts from my students, whose grace, patience and generosity inspire me to be more like them every day.

I am grateful for my pile of discarded clothes that forms as I dash off to meet friends. I am equally grateful to connect through the written word with friends such as you. As I teach the alphabet to my preliterate students, I am grateful for their eagerness to learn and for the joy of reading, a skill I tend to take for granted.

I am grateful for the legacy of my grandfather who passed away last month. I am grateful for his nearly 97 years of faith, integrity and devotion to his family and community. I am grateful for every hour I got to spend with him, grateful to have shared his final days with my aunt and grateful for the reunion of so much family at his funeral. I am grateful to be part of such a family.

I am grateful for Nashville’s warm winter and how infrequently I have to scrape my car windows. I am grateful to live in a hub of old and new friends, to connect as they pass through and to revel in repeat visits with those who stay. I am grateful to reside in a destination city, with a seemingly endless supply of restaurants, concerts, events and adventurous companions.

When I stop to consider this gratitude, the scarcity disappears. Despite the dangling carrot of greater success, achievement, productivity and efficiency, despite the allure of bigger, better and beyond, I see that I am seated at a table where I have been richly served, and I can say with the joy of deeply satisfied Spaniards, “Bastante.”

I wish the same for you this holiday weekend. And I send this gentle reminder that you, too, are enough. To those of us prone to chase the elusive “more” in life and in ourselves, I hope we dare to stop sprinting, risk walking and have the courage to say “Bastante.”

Originally posted: WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2013

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