Our Corner of America

In our corner of America,

the groceries have to be carried from store to car,

car to elevator,

elevator down the hall,

hallway into our home.

And it’s a burden on my Lyme-tender joints,

stiff-fingered grip, mental Lamaze through the pain as I lug

each

load

out

of the car, to the ground, to the stroller, to the

e   l   e   v   a   t   o   r  (so far from our parking spot),

two young children in tow:

one to pull and one to push.

I buy a lot of groceries.

 

But, in our corner of America,

the Colombian abuelo sees me,

approaches in his quiet way,

extends his hands, offering to take some bags,

and takes them all,

walks us to the elevator (not so far, really),

rides up with us,

and delivers us and our groceries to our apartment door.

Then he goes back downstairs

to stroll with his granddaughter,

having lifted my burden.

 

In our corner of America,

the isolation of staying home every day

with a 3-year-old and a new baby,

husband in law school,

no money to spend on fun

or a babysitter,

makes me tremble with the looming

loneliness.

Insignificance.

Monotony.

The journey doesn’t seem worth it today.

The call we followed

that brought us here

is distant now;

I can’t hear it

over the baby’s cries

and preschooler’s chatter.

 

But, in our corner of America,

the Saudi mother texts me out of the blue,

invites me into her home,

pours sweet, steaming tea into delicate cups with saucers

and tiny, shiny silver spoons.

Crusty bread on the table,

homemade hummus.

“Eat more!”

I do.

Our daughters play together,

we talk, commiserate, laugh,

and learn each other,

and she coos to my son in Arabic, “God bless you, God bless you,” smiling.

I receive this benediction in goodwill, and pray the same for her.

My Saudi friend says the first impression she had

when she landed at Dulles airport in Virginia –

the most powerful thing about her first moments in the United States –

was that she felt human.

Not free, but human.

For the first time in her life.

Now, with her friendship and her tea,

she has extended the same dignity to me.

 

In our corner of America,

we attend a folk dance

on Friday night at Glen Echo.

We dance with the wealthy white people our parents’ age.

We dance with them, yes,

and we dance with

the Korean man, the gay couple,

the 25 year-old Indian engineer,

the Jewish woman, the grinning first-dates,

the elderly man with hearing aids who knows the dances by heart.

These others welcome us, guide us, teach us.

We receive their extended hands with gratitude,

and they literally pull us along to keep in step!

We are pulled along; we allow ourselves to be –

“Balance and swing, all join hands, circle the ring…” –

learning with every beat.

 

When was the last time I really let someone else teach me something?

 

We are,

each one,

image-bearers of the One who made us all.

Each one loved, each known and valued.

Each.

One.

Each one an eternal soul in an earthly body,

and our humanity transcends

colors and traditions,

beliefs and appearances,

countries of origin, languages, genders, hopes,

abilities, preferences, experiences and understandings.

Beautiful humanity,

balancing and swinging

up and down the lines,

all together

in our corner of America.

 

 

 

November 27, 2016

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