I sat in the damp library during the daily two-hour downpours.
I was sick of being the stupidest one in the class.
More homework that made no sense to me, words I had never seen and conjugations I had never learned. I was already repeating a class. Shouldn’t I at least understand half of this?
But it was another literature story I had to google in English. I thought I would never learn Spanish and I felt silly for all my dreams and jokes about being fluent one day.
This was my story of learning a new language. Of feeling like an outcast some days and others feeling my heart soar as I looked out from the top of mountains and volcanos and rooftops.
But it really started when I was only 16. I got through Spanish classes with a dictionary and a lot of last minute cramming and google translate. My high school spanish teacher looked like a pumpkin with her bright orange hair and I’m pretty sure she didn’t actually know Spanish.
It was the first time I realized you could fall asleep in class. Like literally take a sufficient nap in that two hour class period.
We never really learned any Spanish.
Eight years later, I see the world a little differently.
I see the thousands of kids who are in school, but don’t speak English.
I taught that word to a group of 7th grade ESL students yesterday.
“Use it in a sentence,” I asked them.
The quiet boy in the back spoke up and pointed at the three newcomers from Mexico who sit on the computer instead of participating in class because they don’t understand their teacher.
“I sympathy them because I know what its like to learn English,” he said in his still broken English.
We respond a little differently when we understand someones struggle. Suddenly people aren’t numbers or burdens or bad test scores. And oddly enough they are a little easier to love when we aren’t looking down at them, but just sitting across the table.
In light of our presidents speech last night that brought mixed responses about where our country is. There seem to be even more mixed responses when it comes to how to fix them.
As we look at the worlds problems maybe we could remember that we are all people with real struggles. That refugees and immigrants and people from other religions have a name and a story that we couldn't possible understand.
The poor and the weak and the forgotten have names just like the the rich and the important and the respected. We as individuals or as a nation will never make all the right decisions, but maybe we could just take a look at the heart they stem from-- get out of our shoes of privileged or educated or middle class and put on a pair with a few more holes and soles that aren't quite as new.