I started to choke up watching the news last night.
I would say that this just means it’s official, I have become my mother – except for the fact that it wasn’t a human interest story. It wasn’t even something personal that hit me close to home. It was coverage of the attacks along the Gaza border, which I really have no connection to.
I think it had to do with Leidy.
Leidy’s new to our first grade class. She has big cheeks like me and long black hair that she almost always wears in pigtails. I don’t think I have ever seen her without a big smile on her face or her cousin Wendy. They always show up an hour early to class and usually wait in my house, asking me questions or playing Uno.
Today Leidy asked me if I knew why her daddy didn’t come from Nicaragua with her. I didn’t. It’s because he died she told me. Then she asked if I knew why she lives with her seven cousins. I didn’t. It’s because her mom had to stay and work she told me, but she calls every night.
You don’t know Leidy, but that doesn’t make her any less real or diminish the injustice of her story. And that’s all I could think about watching the news. So many more sad stories being written that we will never even know about.
I know it’s Thanksgiving and that I am really not supposed to be such a downer, but that’s actually want this is all about.
You see, this year what I am most thankful for is the kindness of strangers. For the people in my community who have embraced me, invited me into their homes, and shared their lives with me. For the volunteers who, although we just met, accepted, included, and supported me. Without every single one of them my time here would have been impossible.
It’s a rare moment in your life when every person most important to you on a day to day basis was, only a short time ago, a far away stranger. It makes you see the world differently.
Mark Twain has told us that ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness,’ I would like to say it’s lethal to indifference too. Suddenly, every story and every face becomes a potential friend, ally, or neighbor filled with love and advice – even the stray dogs. No, especially the stray dogs.
I know not everyone has the possibility of putting their life on hold for two years to pick a machete and live in a developing country, but maybe you can take a second to get to know a stranger where you are. Maybe you can volunteer, even just for an afternoon, in order to open up your life to something new and different.
I realize it sounds cheesy (and I know I am an idealist) but if we each made an effort to do this, to know each other’s stories, there would be so many fewer strangers left. And maybe the news wouldn’t be so sad anymore.
I want to thank everyone who has donated to my computer lab project – we are so close!!! I am a little embarrassed to not have sent out individual thank you cards just yet but the Peace Corps has a policy of not releasing the information of who has donated until all the money is in so I honestly don’t know who to send them to at the moment. Silly bureaucracy. But I do appreciate you!