The first grader

I enjoy finding movies and music that other people haven’t first found. And with noisetrade.com and the 7.99 unlimited streaming Netflix, I”m afforded this option. I have tons of choices of “B” movies with the chance of finding a gem of an independent movie.
On Sunday night I found the latter when I stumbled across The First Grader.  The story is one of an 84 year old former Mau Mau freedom fighter named Maruge who decides to take advantage of Kenya’s new free government education for “all people.” Just as the bible doesn’t mean “every single person” when it says “world” or “all flesh,” neither did the Kenyan government. But since he heard it that way, he decides he has the right to sit and learn with the first graders. And he does.
Of course there is tension and conflict with the villagers, as one would imagine when an 84 year old sits next a slew of 5-6 year olds. The storyline and conflict carry the movie. I guess the acting is good, but the story is worth the price of admission itself. It being based upon a true story doesn’t hurt either.
Here’s what I took from it:
1.) Never stop learning. At 84 years old, he doesn’t want to just “mail it in.” He really wants to learn how to read and will fight the concomitant embarrassment and harassment one would expect should come from such an endeavor. This is not an African version of Billy Madison. Maruge reaffirmed my belief that folks never reach an age where they should stop seeking to learn. Christians of all people should realize that we never stop learning from God’s Word or God’s World. Since learning can and should be devotional, why would we not want to? We’ll be learning in heaven so why stop now?
2.) Never stop teaching. Whether its a 2-3 year old in a Toddler class or an 84 year old in a Sunday School class, the church needs to teach all those who are willing to listen. Age doesn’t matter. Teaching any age pupil is not a waste of time, whether they have a little or lot of time left on Earth. How much time we have here is privileged information anyway. Jesus told his disciples to be teaching and passing all that he has taught us until he gets back. He wants to find us busy at work (Matthew 25:14)
3.) You never know the result of your teaching. It still would have been good to teach an 84 year old man to read regardless of what happened afterwards. That would simply have been loving one’s neighbor as oneself. But we also never know what will happen to an 84 year old who learns to read. He went on and visited the United States and played a role in Kenya’s education before he died. You never know. Your time isn’t wasted when you teach.
4.) You need others in your learning. He received a letter in the mail from the government but didn’t know what it said. Even after learning “cat” and “hat” and “bat,” he realized that he wasn’t ready for the “big words” of this letter. Instead of an individual activity, he learned and discovered the good news with the help of others. In community. Everything needed for the bible is perspicuous, that is, it’s clear enough for any reader to know the truth of the gospel. However, if we are to plumb the depths of the gospel, we can’t learn in isolation. If you want the roots of the gospel to go deeper in your heart, you need to go deeper into community and let others read the good news to you in a fresh and deeper way.

A great story and great movie. Well worth your time.

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