I hate that I am not bilingual.
I certainly have had opportunity.
I have had in-laws whose native language was Spanish, I have worked for 10 years in a place in Mexico that is so dear to my heart it feels like home and family, and I live in the fourth largest city in the United States where at least 44 % of the population speak Spanish.
Spanish could have been my second language.
I have excused myself with the reason that I have no linguistic aptitude. It is an insufficient excuse. We can do what we want to do, at least at some level, if we try. (Although Spanish or any other language would never have rolled off my tongue anything other than Gringa-like.)
I realize that it’s not just the fact of knowing the language that I am missing out on. It’s the context. Words are powerful and to know a language means you have the chance to know the heart that proffered the culture. You have a pass into a different way of thinking about things and for things Mexican, it means I get it beyond jalapenos, flour tortillas and pinatas, which by the way have my undying admiration.
But just imagine how much richer my life could be.
Last Sunday, in the church that I have gone to off and on for most of my life in Houston, I went to Spanish Sunday school. Just like Houston, this local church is diverse and I have heard rumors about the spirit of the Hispanic worshipers who gather just doors down from where I do. I had a plan. I figured since I knew the story in English the teacher was going to teach in Spanish, I had a leg up on the whole I’m-a-linguistic-incompetent.
That and a very personal desire to connect in ways beyond translation.
I have been warmed by the honest and open hospitality and friendship of Latinos in countries far and wide. I had yet to share in worship. As I sat in the small class, surrounded by Spanish speaking 20 somethings, Chris and his wife conducted class. It was as I had imagined. With the bit of history from my work efforts with my Mexican collaborators, I instantly recognized the open, less formal, structured way of expressing and interacting. These young people, attentive and enthusiastic, had joy in their eyes, happy for the season as they listened intently. Chris explained the Americanized version of Christmas as it has been celebrated over the decades and then, commensurate traditions that have evolved south of the border.
As I listened intently, attempting to correlate words, I could tell each time Chris’ explanations carried insights or thoughts about the incredible story of of the birth of a Messiah. Thoughts that the group had not considered before.
Most of the insights Chris was sharing were because of the time we live in. Google hasn’t just impacted how we find information on how to fix your toilet or gain points in Candy Crush. We can also delve into the languages that the Scripture were written in. We can ferret out why certain words were used in stead of others because they meant more to the general public 2000 years ago.
It’s that idea of context again.
We can put our ourselves into the lives of the everyday woman or man of the middle east, millennia ago. Because something revolutionary was happening as the news spread about a man who was healing people, going against the norm, leading a life far outside the ordinary and was saying he was God. The countryside was abuzz. And so was Spanish class as they talked about the history and the trappings of celebrating that event in the last 2000 years since His birth.
You see, there is more than just understanding the value of sharing a language in the community you live. We desire as a people, atheist and believer alike, to understand our place in the context of life. Its not just a desire to understand the different ways of thinking. It goes beyond the value of being bilingual. We all want to know why we are here, our place, our reason for being
It’s been a driving force for me since 2005 when Jake died, I’ve done so through attending a class, every Sunday morning taught by a lawyer/teacher who looks at the ancient text we call the Bible as if he was examining it in court of law. It appeals to me because it gets past rhetoric that has been passed around the Bible belt that I live in, that seems more often to be peer reviewed by emotion rather than intellect. There is a better way. We live in a better time. We live in an extraordinary time.
My New Years Resolution?
I am going to learn a few Spanish words each day.
I am going to read through the Bible in a brand new way this year. In a context way. Its a new idea that lawyer/teach has.
I am doing this because I want to be all that I can be. Not in a famous way, but in a way that serves and accepts and connects with those around me who think like I do and those who don’t. Because while I am willing to give credit to the value of being bilinguil to understand a culture that is not natively mine, I am even more willing to give credit to a book that at its heart explains how I can find joy. A joy that lasts. No matter the pitfalls the devils throws into my life. (Damn you, devil.) And I have the chance to understand it in the context it was written rather than what I have been told it says.Think just how rich I am going to be!
My friends far and wide, II wish you the happiest 2014. Sincerely.
PS. If you think you know what the Bible says or doesn’t say, if you say you’ve read it and never have; if you disbelieve the whole idea but don’t have a real good reason to do so other than it seems to be the smart one, take a stab at a new way of looking at it, go HERE. You’ve got a plethora of options. And you have me. You will be able to ask me anything. That’s not to say I have the answer, I don’t. I am just one who believes in conversations, even in disagreement, for things that matter. (And I have connections 😉