In the middle of trying to convince Marta that I was simply trying to learn her story, she yelled to a teenager across the street. I wasn’t sure what she was doing. And apparently neither did Luis, a sophomore at Van Nuys High School. I told him I needed him to translate for me. And as he began to ask her questions, she didn’t want to answer him because she didn’t know him…and didn’t want to talk to me because (as Luis said) we didn’t speak the same language.
So, I started with simple questions. Was she married? No. Did she have kids? No. Has she been doing this job for a long time? No. I did find out that her favorite flavor juice was Tamarindo because it’s tart. Do you like tart flavors? No. Luis was beginning to show the patients of a teenager when Marta started asking me questions.
“Why do you want to know about me?” I said, “Because I am trying to meet the people in my neighborhood.” Then, “Why do you want to meet people?” I tried explaining to her that I was “trying to build bridges between people and not walls.” Luis liked that answer and when he translated it to her, using a lot more words than I would think was necessary, Marta smiled, and said I was crazy. Perhaps.
What’s crazy is a world where immigrants live in fear, where strangers won’t talk to each other, or languages still keep us from sharing our story. Was it me? Or the times we are living through these days? Is this just a crazy pipedream of mine to want to build bridges between different groups or is this the new reality where people are scared to engage with others because you can just never tell what kind of crazy thing might happen.
Today in El Paso, TX, WalMart reopened after a man drove from Dallas to the border town to kill innocent Mexican people because of some fanatical political belief that has infected our country. And just a few miles away, at another high school, a young man opened fire and killed two people before killing himself. Marta has good reason not to talk with me. I was a stranger. But I too am in the right to want to make sure people like Marta, Luis, and all the rest don’t have to fear people like me. Or anyone for that matter. That’s what I know this day in KNOWvember
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”