Please, Allow Me to Interrupt You

Comunidad Está Aquí

“No puedo.” I shook my head at my Spanish professor. Her lime-green fuzzy jacket seemed to mock the cold Florida weather. She smiled at me as if she found my self-doubt charming. I looked down at my desk and mumbled to myself “this is going to be terrible.” A classmate behind me who spoke Spanish as her first language rubbed my shoulder and said “you’re going to be fine!” Though I appreciated her support, her fluent Spanish-speaking skills ruined her credibility in telling me that I would be “fine.”

As part of a service learning element to a 400 level Spanish class that I don’t feel qualified to take, our class would go to Jacksonville’s Lutheran Social Services on Tuesday to make connections with the Cuban refugees. There we would find a pen pal and email back and forth. They would email us in Spanish and we would email them back in English. It’s a win-win on helping one another with our second language skills. Sounds cute, right?

Your Anxiety is Their Life Now

Then I found out that we would also be talking with them on Tuesday, and since they don’t know much English, we would have to say everything in Spanish. Seeing as how my Spanish-speaking skills don’t match the Puerto Rican heritage everyone thinks I have, the anxiety began to swallow me whole. “I’m just going to end up staring at them!” I pleaded with my professor. She looked at me with the same smile and said, “I know you are anxious about speaking in a language that is not your own. But you will be doing this for two hours. They have to do this every day. Your anxiety is their life now.”

In that moment, I was humbled. Through all of my negativity, I neglected to think about what they must feel having to adapt to a new culture and new language every day. I was self-focused and didn’t think about community. I discovered that my fear of speaking Spanish to them was something that they could relate to.

No One Realizes They’re A Part of One

Killian McGinnan, a 17-year-old global activist, told the Baltimore Sun the perspectives she found after living with a strong community in El Salvador.

“Here in the U.S., people are so focused on self-improvement and individual success that we forget to care for others; we forget we’re part of a community. It’s hard to form a strong community when no one realizes they’re part of one.”

And that’s what global and local awareness is about. It’s about waking up and realizing that we’re part of a community. Our community is vast and without borders. Our community cannot be hidden or silenced. Until we realize this, we will continue to be blinded to ourselves and to the world around us. We will continue to live in anxiety and loneliness, not realizing that our pain is to bring healing and our sorrows to bring joy.  So the next time community tries to interrupt your journey, let it.

This semester, I’m going to build connections with people in my community, whether that’s in English, Spanish, or nonverbal communication. I have a lot to learn from them.

Comunidad está aquí.