“So who here likes Avatar?” I ask.
Each of the twenty or so elementary school students raise their hand enthusiastically.
“Oh perfect! So just like Sokka and Katara, my sister and I are on a journey around the world to learn the four elements.”
A collective “Whaaaaaaat” rises from the table. One girl’s jaw literally drops.
“Haha yeah I guess it’s pretty cool,” I continue. “Can anyone guess what element we’ve been learning here in the Virgin Islands?”
“OO OO!,” exclaims Malakai, a young rasta boy. “Water!”
“Exactly! You may not know this, but in Avatar waterbending in based on Tai Chi so we’ve been learning Tai Chi. Does anyone want to learn some waterbending?”
Over the clamor of enthusiasm I manage to move the students to an open area and line them in two rows. They are an generally underprivileged group of students from St. Thomas who are visiting the Four Elements Healing Center here on Water Island for the day. The owner of Four Elements heard about Gabriela and I and asked us to come share our story.
“So the first move I learned is actually the same waterbending technique that Katara taught Aang. I’ll share that with you all now. Let’s begin.”
Instantly all of the students, who a moment earlier were buzzing with excitement, fall into a hushed focus and follow each of my instructions with their grave attention. It would appear that they are fully invested in the practice.
After the we complete the form, I thank the students and they disperse. Fatima, who has been living here, appears at my side and points to her right, “Look!”
The same young girl whose jaw had dropped is standing beside her mother, leading her mother in the same form I had just showed her. Her face is beaming with pride as she looks up to her mother, their arms raised overhead.
I smile to myself.
We learn so that we may teach.
We receive so that we may give.
This is the lesson one can find in the ebb and flow of waves washing up on a beach. Or, alternatively, in a bright-eyed young girl. Depends on who your teacher for the day is, I suppose.