Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Crossing Over to Your World

There are spectacular things happening. I love to hear good news. I love to find out someone is taking a giant faith-filled step or making a break through. Someone shared with me recently about getting "freed" from something that held them down and back- and now it is "under" their feet. Then today I read my friend's news ( http://reneeswope.blogspot.com/ ) about how she is stepping out in faith, in love, in wanting to adopt a child from Africa.

Speaking of foreign countries, I have had the most enjoyable of experiences in having strangers come up to me, trying to guess my ethnicity. In the summers, my son and I, in particular, get quite dark. His teeth flash even whiter in his bronzed skin. My daughter is fairer, but in the summer she looks Mediterranean.

One day this summer I was at the Grocery Store in the bakery section. There was a man working, kneading the bread, who was obviously Italian or something close to that. I decided to call out a greeting in the little bit of Italian I know. He smiled and answered back in a stream of Italian, turning to my daughter, and asking her something. She looked at me with her eyes wide, silently begging my help with her Mom, look what you've gotten me into now!

I quickly said to the man, "Oh, she doesn't know any Italian."

"Shame on you, for not teaching her the mother tongue!" he admonished me.

"Oh, I'm not Italian,"I answered back with a laugh. "I'm Latin- my Dad is from Bolivia."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," he said, smiling at me. "You look Italian."

The Greeks think I'm Greek (ooopa!), the Italians think I'm Italian (mangi!). I look Portuguese or Brazilian, depending on the day. I've had the world, practically, come up to me and embrace me, thinking I am one of their own.

I try to learn a little bit of every one's language so that I can always say "Hello, how are you?" or "Do you want to go roller skating with me?". (I learned to say that, in Italian, back in my college days, and it has never come in handy since). I can say "You are a woman" in German- and that only works with half the population. (My of-German-descent mother taught me to say that, as well as how to say an expletive in German- though she swears she never did). I still remember one of the first things I learned back in high school French class with Mr. Brelle- "M. Brelle est sous la table"- and Mr. Brelle hasn't come out from under the table since. I don't blame him.

We learn strange things, sometimes- things that we can't always use in future conversations. But the good intention is there. Sometimes that, alone, is enough. (Except for the French- don't mangle their language or else!)

I want to speak to everyone in their own language. I want to get through to them and let them know I am interested in knowing them, glad to meet them, that I sincerely wish them well on their journey. I try to figure out a way to get this message across.

What works best is usually a big smile. That can cross the language barriers any day. And then, especially with teenage boys, a hug will work wonders at helping you cross from your world to theirs. Even if they act all weird and squeemish about you hugging them, they don't push you away when you embrace them- and they could.

"Mo-o-o-m, please, " my son will say, rolling his eyes as I hug him, pulling his cheek close to me so I can give him a kiss and whisper, "I'm proud of you. Don't forget to drive me around when I'm eighty, okay?"

He'll smile back at me. He can't help it. He understands what I'm saying to him. And I can see that he didn't mind the hug.

Didn't mind it at all.


Keli said...

What a sweet, enjoyable post! I love your sentiments. It would be lovely to talk a bit in every language, but you're right - a smile means the same to all.
PS I still give my teens hugs and kisses (daily) too!

Barbara said...

What a lovely post, as always! God has given you a special gift for words; no matter what the language! As someone who works with people from all over the world, I do believe that it's the spirit behind the smile, the spirit within us, that can breakdown barriers to communication when we don't know the words in another language. (I've also seen my share of miscommunications based on language and culture, but that's a different post!) Do you speak Spanish? I also love the music you put on your blog and am considering using it somewhere in mine, too. Nice song today (especialmente porque yo hablo espanol)!

Lauren at Faith Fuel! said...

Barbara, Si, yo hablo un poco de espanol. Aunque no lo hablo bien, yo trato de hablarlo cuando puedo.

I feel the same way about the song- Levanto las manos- I love it! But I'm on to another song now!

Beth said...

Love this one too!
You remind me of a mentor I once had.
And as a mother of boys, thanks for the advice!