Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Speak English

My major job at work right now is phoning families that have been referred to us by other agencies to set up appointments for them to come in and "shop" for toys for their children for Christmas.  It's fabulous, as it basically means that all day every day I'm making people happy. 

However, making these phone calls all day has made me incredibly aware of how much of a blessing it is to be living in a place where I speak the dominant language fluently.  Most of the people I phone are immigrants with varying degrees of ability to speak English.  I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to navigate a new culture on a daily basis, knowing people are trying to communicate important information to you about appointments, about your immigration status, about your health and children, and have to struggle to understand.

That said, there have been some moments of general hilarity, or deep poignancy.  The woman who was so relieved when I called, and admitted she was having a hard day.  She'd lost a baby recently, and was grieving.  She told me that she was so happy I called because she was doing enough grieving, and she didn't want her living child to also grieve.  Being able to provide Christmas for her child was a miracle in her day, and I got to be a part of it.  There was one woman who turned down my offer of an appointment, telling me that while her income was still low, she could provide for her children, and she'd rather the gifts go to a family who was in the place hers had been a few years ago.  And then there was the woman who, when I asked her to spell her last name, did so emphatically, in her thickly accented English, and had me working hard not to burst into laughter.  Her response?  "It's Fu.  Eff.  You!"  I cracked up as soon as I hung up the phone.  The whole thing was made far funnier by her complete lack of awareness as she proudly spelled her name for me, ensuring we were communicating smoothly!

These are my days, and I'm glad I speak English.  It's something I took for granted, and patiently calling these people day after day is making me re-think that.  It's a blessing to speak the dominant language of the country in which you live.  And it's one I'll remember, if, as I dream of, I one day find myself transplanted to some place where I am no longer fluent in the dominant language.