When I started teaching in the school in Egypt, I had a kind of culture shock. The staff room is one big room with individual desks for each teacher. There are about 30 of us in that room – all females. The male teachers are housed in another room upstairs. Whenever I get back to the staff room, I would often see big groups of teachers just sitting around and chatting. It was always an impromptu gathering. Somebody would bring her chair to a colleague and another would follow and another. This big group will chat and talk about anything and everything under the sun – about the students, their classes, their family, about the country, about other countries, about religion, about cooking, parenting, about politics etc etc etc. But it wasn’t a serious kind of talk. It was always filled with laughter and giggles. Jokes and funny stories are abound. There’s hardly any silence in the room. My first impression of Egyptian women are that they are a joyful lot, cheerful and witty. They look as if they do not have any problems at all, whether personal or work problems. Well, there are no males to eavesdrop right, so they practically/literally let their hair down.
However, after a few years being in this staff room, I realize that my first impression of most of the teachers is wrong. The teachers’ facade of problem-less people collapsed when I got to know them personally one by one. Problems related to divorce, abuse, medical, family, spouse, children, and all kinds of tribulations surface one by one. I started asking myself – why the facade? It was not difficult for me to find the answer.
These teachers put up a facade not to cheat or mislead other people but rather to put their problems in perspective to their much bigger job – that is to educate children. They put up a smile in front of children although in actual fact, they are suffering from problems just like anybody else. They talk with each other and chat and laugh to forget about their miseries and problems, even for just a short while so that their laughter can rejuvenate their tired souls and their exhausted brains from worrying and thinking about their problems. We know how laughter can really stimulate certain hormones in the brain that relaxes the body and rejuvenates the brain, making it better alert and better able to find solutions to their problems or able to see their problems in different light and different perspective.
Indeed, this is a very good strategy – be a clown to make others happy and put aside your own problems. Or be the candle to give light to others while you get burnt along the way. This is the pure, genuine sacrifice.