Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Patience, Humility and Understanding

If you read my post on Monday, which is part 1 to this post..., you know the story of the area I was in and why. I had two encounters that day that made me realize how changed I am now, how my heart has become softer and more empathetic towards people that I once felt uncomfortable around. As I was on my way to the room where the parents were being escorted to get their voluntary Pre-Kindgergarten certificates I noticed the young African American couple and their little boy in front of me. The mother had an obvious physical disability and was also unable to speak; I knew this because she was moving her mouth as she "spoke" to her husband in sign language and no sounds were coming out. They sat down in the room across from me and the husband had a confused look on his face as the lady explained what everyone needed to do. He called her over after she finished and attempted to explain what he needed, but was having a hard time getting his point across. I was filling out my paperwork, but could not help but feel this man's frustration as the lady was not clear on what he needed. The mother's hands were going a mile a minute trying to "tell" her husband what to communicate to the lady and he kept asking her to calm down; their little boy looking blankly ahead. The lady gave the man some papers and sent him on his way. Although she was not rude in her tone, she clearly did not feel like dealing with them anymore.

I felt bad knowing that they left without the answer they needed about enrolling their son in school. I finished my paperwork, obtained the certificate for my son and left. When I got to the parking lot I saw the couple standing outside their minivan, the wife's hands were flying all over the place as she was obviously and understandably upset about the whole ordeal. I quietly walked over and said "excuse me, I could not help but overhear your conversation in there, did you get the information that you needed?" The man of course replied no and the mother walked over and started signing as he translated for her. I talked with them for a few minutes trying to understand myself what it was they needed and once I was clear, I said "C'mon, let's go back in and see if we can get your answer." We walked up to the door which was locked being that so many people were still trying to get in for free or reduced child-care. They had an armed guard inside who came to the door when I knocked. I explained to him what had happened and that I was trying to help these people get the answer that they needed. He looked at me in a surprising way, almost puzzled actually and he let us in; the door locked behind us.

Someone's name had just been called by one of the clerks so I jumped into that window to ask my simple question. After a moment or two of clearly explaining what this couple needed, I had an address and phone number of where they needed to go. They had been at three different places over the course of three days trying to get an answer and nobody took the time to help them. Was it because the mother was disabled? Was it because they looked like just another welfare case? I don't know, what I do know is that it only took ME two minutes to get the answer they needed, and if it had not been for me taking the time to help them, their son may not have been able to go to school this week.

The man looked at me with warmth in his eyes and said thank you as I handed him the piece of paper with the address and phone number he needed to enroll his son in school. His wife had a huge smile on her face and signed "thank you" as I walked away. Exemplifying humility and understanding towards others and their needs is something that has become part of who I am. It has changed me, my heart and the way I think about those who may not be like me or have the privileges, the means or the opportunities that I have. I proved to myself how much I have grown as a human being and I left that parking lot feeling fantastic. The only thing that could make this story better is if I could have seen that little boys face on his first day of school!

Lesson to be learned:

"Don't turn away from a person in need, your helping hand may be what leads the way for them."