While at Creighton, I took a year of Spanish. Honestly, it wasn’t too hard. The second semester I took it, I was also taking Calc I, which required much more of my time than did Spanish. The teacher was nice and gave second chances, so I knew if I messed up I had another opportunity. When I got to sophomore year, I figured I should keep at it since it’s such an important language. I hadn’t given it enough time before, though, and didn’t remember is, so I dropped.
Now that I’m in the Novitiate here in St. Paul, I’m required to take Spanish. In fact, all Jesuits (unless already Spanish-speaking), must learn Spanish or another international language connected with the province.
I started out in the Basic class because I honestly could hardly say anything. I still remembered a fair bit, though, like conocer is “yo conozco.” Most of my present tense was pretty good. So our two teachers asked me to sit in on Intermediate class immediately after. They’re working on future tense, preterit and imperfect all at once. I could conjugate decently, with the help of a study guide I’m working on; but my vocab is next to nothing. Today, we did starting with preterit and moving into imperfect to describe a past situation. Not a hard concept, but I’m far slower than everyone else. We had to write some sentences starting with preterit and moving into imperfect–in the time it took me to write one rather short sentence, everyone else created 2 or 3 rather complex and detailed sentences. Luis (my professor) encouraged me that my sentence was great. We were supposed to read our second one after going around the circle, and I had to admit I only had one done and struggled to make one up on the spot.
We moved onto an exercise in the workbook with phrases we had to match up and turn into sentences. Somebody had previously completed mine, so I went to work attempting to translate. The circle started (I was 4th in it) and everyone had written new sentences. I had to ask what was going on and explain that I had no clue was basically anything meant–the whole class stared at me waiting for answers I couldn’t give. It was humiliating. I felt like a complete idiot and was frustrated not with the class, but myself for being so stupid.
As I prayed about it in the hour between class and service, I realized this is possibly a feeling that new immigrants might get–we talk to them and groups of people stare waiting for answers. I expect them to be able to respond with the ease that I could. I expect them to pick up mannerisms, pronunciation, and more. But I’m terrible at it. I absolutely cannot fathom what it’s like to not have second opportunities to fix mistakes like I get in class, or a teacher willing to sit down with me.
As Tim pointed out, we then have a responsibility–we have an opportunity and responsibility to reach out, to learn Spanish and to show more love and compassion with who communication is more of a struggle. We must also speak out for justice and compassion.
I was also reflecting on today’s reading at mass combined with a Facebook post by my friend Ken D. Ken said that Mexico was responsible for the drug problems and the violence. Why aren’t we? Rich white kids in the US do drugs, too. We also use economic structures like NAFTA and sweatshops to keep people impoverished. Wouldn’t you drug run or work in a coca field if it meant you could feed your starving child? Or would you also make the attempt to come illegally to our country and find work here to escape that violence, but find the same here as we force people into ghettos? Who is our neighbor? Aren’t we responsible to stopping the cycle of violence? Don’t we need to show compassion and open our arms just as Christ did? Because if we want to say we’re Christians, we’re mandated to do so.
A few closing thoughts:
-Jesus and family were illegal immigrants and political refugees
-Jesus’ life was spent in a country dominated and forcibly impoverished by an empire while propping up a few token wealthy people
-Rich white kids do drugs, too
-Hip-Hop artist Immortal Technique recorded a song about the path of cocaine and the problems with it, and how we don’t realize that it’s deeper than “others” killing each other. Our economic and political policies are part of the problem and we are responsible to fix these problems. Peruvian Cocaine by Immortal Technique Warning! Some graphic language
-We are responsible, and we must act, especially if we want to call ourselves Christians.