EVERY AUGUST, just before school begins,
our church holds its Community Health Clinic.
Free medical, dental, hearing and vision checkups for all ages.
Free backpacks filled with supplies for all school-age children.
Some spa services – haircuts, nails, massage.
Free hot lunch.
Families are escorted
through the labyrinth of hallways
to the services they desire
some of us just learning the layout ourselves.
Nobody is left to wander lost.
Wally and I arrived 2 hours before the Clinic opened
and already a long line had formed.
I had taken a big leap
and signed up for the bilingual team,
though my Spanish is only slightly better than someone
who’s never studied Spanish at all.
100+ guides were gathered together
in the sanctuary,
the bilingual team pulled out
to sit in a separate section
to be called upon as needed,
and I don’t think I became nervous
until they referred to us as translators.
“Could we have all the TRANSLATORS sit over here?”
“TRANSLATORS? Does he mean us?” I asked,
slowly rising and following the others,
gravitating toward a subset whose faces reflected my own,
with a look that questioned the wisdom
of having, weeks earlier,
checked the box that said “bilingual.”
When will I learn to stop reaching?!
This is how I end up in messes like this.
Surrounded by interpreters
who’d come over from General Electric –
speakers of Arabic and Spanish –
and a dozen students from a Catholic boys’ high school
who get community service credit,
we overreachers sat in the back row
and watched as the truly qualified in front of us
began to be assigned, one by one,
to incoming families and head off to the great conversational unknown.
As our numbers thinned, and we were bound to be called upon,
our remorse and silence grew thicker.
My rescue came from a Nepalese woman,
a student from ESL class
I’d given an invitation to
when I learned she lived nearby.
I had no clue she’d come
and no expectation we’d be paired up, if she did,
but when I saw her enter
and knew we had no Nepali interpreters
but that she and I were used to muddling through together,
I jumped up from the back row and offered to take her.
In our travels through the building,
she introduced me to a Nepali friend she spotted in the crowd.
I introduced her to a young Iraqi mother,
a former ESL student I ran into.
I hadn’t seen her in a year.
She was there with her little girl.
We had a happy exchange in the corridor,
all smiles and hugs, the feel of Old Home Week,
like these are my people. Are they?
In the end, I didn’t use my Spanish, except for eavesdropping. 🙂
By Clinic’s end, close to 250 families had been served.
And I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time….church pride.
the daily media parade of people
claiming to be Christian and
using it as justification to marginalize and demean others
It makes me want to distance myself.
But every so often
here and there,
I see small pockets of the imperfect faithful
seriously trying to meet needs
as best they can with what they have,
no fanfare, no TV cameras, nobody looking to be a superstar
and I feel proud.
In a good way, proud.
Like I’ve come home to something.
1,054 people ministered to? Let’s make that 1,055.