Way too early on a Saturday morning, I took my son to his ophthalmologist appointment. It was actually an optometrist - but, that’s neither here nor there.
We entered the office and noticed a dark chocolate-skinned father and his jovial daughter were having challenges communicating with the front desk. The father shared that he used his daughter’s current weight on the paperwork, but did not know his daughter’s birth weight as the receptionist clarified the document called for. As the pace and complexity of the questions increased from the young Black receptionist helping the family, the child stepped in as if it was her natural reaction to begin fielding the questions relative to her medical history.
I watched in awe as the assets of this young child allowed her to facilitate her family’s needs, and felt deeply in awe of three people who shared a skin tone having so little language to connect them in this medical space.
We later were moved to a different waiting room where the father and daughter had more exchanges in a language by which my son was deeply intrigued. I encouraged him to inquire about it, but his shyness kept him from doing so.
“I’m sorry - what language are you speaking?” I asked.
“Hatian Creole,” the father answered as his face lit up.
We began to chat about how little I knew, but how much I wanted to learn. I simultaneously talked with the father as I shared with my son that he had been exposed to French through digital apps, but that it was similar (not the same) as Hatian Creole. The daughter watched us in the conversation, but preferred to spectate from her seat.
Just then, a family walked in and the mother sat beside me as the two daughters sat next to the father and daughter cross from us. They, with beautiful skin the color of desert sands, had the new version of “Aladdin” on their tablet. They giggled at their mother as the young Hatian girl tried to mask her obvious interest in the movie. Finally, the girls shared their device so they could all partake.
My son sang along to the songs as it traveled through the air and filled the room with an easy pan-African enjoyment.
I love the way languages connect people - but I also know that it is only one of many ways to connect. At a time when closeness feels so far, it’s memories like this that remind me of our human potential and the power of kindness.
A desire to know.
A shared song.
It’s hard to fathom that a doctor’s office can be beautiful. But it never was. Nor is any school, business or other establishment. It’s the human connection within those spaces.
And no powers, principalities or pandemics can ever take that away.