Without a car in Miami, I hop on the bus to get me to and from different parts of the city. As I approach the step to get on the bus and tap my Easy Card, I never know what to expect. Public transportation in general is interesting, but public transportation in Miami can be crazy. I’ve only been in the city for a couple weeks and have already met really awesome characters, been squished way to close to people I didn’t know, experienced some fights, and been labeled as an outsider.
If the color of my skin doesn’t already give away that I’m not really from the neighborhood, it is the fact that I don’t understand the majority of conversations going on around me as I ride along. Along with Miami already having a very large Spanish-speaking population, the neighborhood I live in, Little Haiti, consists of many Haitian-speakers as well. Throw in the tourists that come to Miami from around the world speaking many different languages, and I am completely lost. The English dominated society that I come from has completely disappeared. In Miami, knowing another language, particularly Spanish, gives you automatic bonus points, allowing you to better maneuver around the city and communicate more easily. Unfortunately, the Spanish that I took in high school has started to fade from my brain, and the lack of practice in the language leaves me pretty much at a loss when someone says just about anything to me in the language.
Everywhere I have lived in the past, even if Spanish was spoken occasionally, English was the power language. It was the language that showed that you belonged. When people didn’t speak any English, they were outsiders, aliens, and sometimes unwanted. Now the tables have turned. I am that outsider, that alien, and that unwanted person. I don’t speak the language, and it’s no fun.
The simplest things about a person such as their primary language, race, gender, sexual orientation, dress, religion, or age can create such incredible barriers between people. If we do not understand someone because of the way they speak or by their actions, it is incredibly easy to place them in the outsider and unwanted category. We are all scared of what we don’t understand to some capacity, whether we would like to admit it or not.
What if instead of casting away the outsider though, we actually tried to understand them?
I catch the number 9 bus most days to work and everyday there is a girl waiting there for the bus as well. She is beautiful black girl with purple and black braids who I would guess is in her mid-teen years. She speaks Haitian and almost no English. Despite this, we have become friends and we look for seats to sit together on the bus as we board. Today I showed her pictures on my phone of my dog back home in Iowa, and we made funny faces together at the baby in the seat ahead of us that was staring at us the whole way. I’m not sure if I understand anything she says, nor am I sure if she understands anything I say. Despite this, we have grown to be friends.
So what do all of these barriers that we as humans set between ourselves mean in the bigger picture? What do the mean to G*d? I’m going to guess ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. G*d’s love has no barriers. She doesn’t care about the language that I speak or don’t speak. G*d cares about us just as we are, as human beings, and it seems a real shame that we don’t always try to do the same.