The maintenance man in the law firm's building is a very cheerful Hispanic. He always stops to chat with me in Spanish - his face smiles warmly, but mine surely goes flaming red as I will myself to string together more than two words of this beautiful language. The best I could do today: "Estoy cansada." He never laughs at me or acts condescending when he corrects my mistakes, nor does he mind lapsing back into English when I've exhausted my supply of Spanish phrases. I see in his eyes and hear in his parting "Ciao, chica," simple, sheer enjoyment in the opportunity to share his language with another person willing to listen. Wouldn't I want that, too, if I were relocated to, say, Russia? Our language is part of our identity; when we share it with someone, we are also sharing part of our identity. When that someone engages with us on our level, in our language, they are recognizing our identity and value.
I am ashamed at how little Spanish I remember because I know that without it I can't engage in a deeper dialog with this man and so many like him. I can't communicate as fully as I want to the fact that I see them as more than a maintenance man, a cleaning lady, a gardener...I can't participate in and learn from their story, their culture.
I meant to ask what his name is, but I couldn't remember how.