A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about an incredible and brief encounter I had with a young lady at a famous restaurant in Atlanta. She saw me and stood by me.
You can read about that here:
Just yesterday, I had the opportunity to perform this same service to a pair of young Latino men in a Quik Trip parking lot.
I’m constantly amazed at how God uses random people to ignite passion in me, to comfort me, and to challenge me. However, I always doubt that I’m actually “good enough” to be used like this for another person.
Well God isn’t satisfied with that. Yesterday afternoon, my mother and I made a quick trip to Quik Trip, as my mother is obsessed with the fact that you can get free water there. While she pulled into a parking spot, I saw two young Latino men exiting the store and heading toward their white pickup truck. They both had white t-shirts on and white ball-caps on their heads. If I had to make an educated guess based on their clothing and car, I would assume that they were day laborers, or at least men who worked outside for a living.
Throughout my day, almost every day, I see Latinos working outside. They blow leaves, trim hedges, mow lawns, fix fences, construct buildings, and essentially keep everything running smoothly for us. When I see these people, I immediately feel a deep sadness while a fervent passion simultaneously sparks inside my heart. I see them and think:
“I wonder how many people talk to them every day.”
“Does anyone greet them as these Latinos work so hard for us?”
“We’re in Georgia, so there are few Spanish speakers here to converse with them.”
“I should say hello!”
I try my best to greet every Latino immigrant I see throughout my day. I am well aware that 99% of the time, no one else does. So, yesterday I saw these men, obviously hard workers, enter their white pickup truck that was so conveniently parked next to my mom’s car. (I see You, God.)
As I left the passenger side of the car, I glanced up at them sitting in their seats and simply said, “Hola.” They both smiled and replied “Hola!” I walked into the Quik Trip and saw them watching me go.
Now obviously I’m beautiful and I’m sure they were looking at me for that reason. But, I also believe that they were so happy to greet me for a few reasons:
- I saw them as they were.
- I recognized them as equally human and as part of my own group.
- I deemed them worthy enough of a greeting in their native tongue.
- My greeting showed them that I was for them and with them.
You guys probably think that I think entirely too deeply about these things, and normally you’d be right. But today? No way Jose! (see what I did there?)
Imagine living in a country whose government is against your existence. The President has referred to you as a rapist, a drug dealer, a criminal, uneducated, an animal. You’ve heard of neighbors and friends being deported for lack of documentation. You walk around every day with the knowledge that the majority culture looks at you as a leech upon the economy (oh, how it’s totally the opposite!) and upon society in general. At the very least, they look at you as “other.”
They don’t speak your language. In fact, the way they speak English makes you wonder if they’re really speaking English! (sorry, Southerners but it’s true.) You know that any moment, a Caucasian man with power can strip you of the life you’ve created for yourself and your family here. He can even rob you of your life on this planet and will most likely get away with it. So you keep your head down. Make little eye contact. Speak only to those who will understand you. Live your own life apart from these Americans who don’t trust you on sight.
But, today, an American looked at you. She looked like a Caribbean Latina, but she was certainly as Latino as you. She greeted you in your language, with a smile. For a brief moment, you felt a little less unnoticed. You felt a little more important and welcome. You thought that you could become an equal part of the greatness that does exist in this country. For a second, you were seen. And it felt good.
THIS, my dear readers, is why I’m passionate about Latinos in this country. Because I can’t imagine walking around every day with this heavy weight on my shoulders. But our beautiful Latino immigrant neighbors do and so I will honor them with a proper greeting and conversation, if possible, to show them that I see them. I am with them. I am for them. I am of them.
Picture from The New York Times