Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kindness of Strangers

Many people ask me how nicaraguans view my presence here as a United States citizen, in light of the not-too-friendly foreign policies that the U.S. has supported in the past.  I always have the same response - no one has ever made me feel discriminated against for my nationality.  Even if people talk critically of the U.S.'s role in the Contra War, they are quick to recognize that a country's policy and people are two completely different things.

That being said, there are the rare times when I feel that, for my age or sex or accent, some people just really don't like me.  There is one nurse at a local health post who harbors, if not a fiery rage, then a slow-boiling dislike for me.  Every time she sees me, she looks like she's gotten a whiff of something horrible, and just recently, when I went to do some satisfaction surveys at the health post, I heard her saying, "I don't know what that girl's doing over there, some stupid shit she just made up," knowing full well that these surveys were a requirement from the Ministry of Health.  It annoyed me, but I handled it in my new favorite way, which is to make things as awkward as possible.  From my chair, I just stared at her.  And stared.  And stared.  She knew what I was doing, but couldn't call me out on it without acknowledging what she had said about me, and admitting that she knew about the satisfaction surveys, thus showing just how petty she was acting.  I finally stopped when I saw her visibly squirm, and returned, with a smile, to interviewing patients for the survey.

After a few minutes, a young woman who had been sitting close to the nurse came over to talk to me.
"You're not from here, are you?" she asked.
"No, I'm from the United States," I answered.
She nodded and continued, "yeah, some people are different, they look different, they speak different, and so, some people treat them different, but that's not right."
I quickly agreed, and kept talking in the hypothetical, until the look on her face told me that she was speaking of the here and now.  I stopped talking, and we just sat there looking at each other.

There will always be those who choose to look at our differences, who choose to reflect their inner negativity on others, to turn them into ugly enemies.  And there will always be those who reach out to others with love, even if it's to someone they've never met, even if that person is different.  

The young lady finished her survey, and as she left, I thanked her.  I tried to put a lot into the word, everything she had made me feel, all the love.

Thank you.
Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. I love your tactic. Seems like it works well!