Language can be a barrier to relationship. I’m not only talking about the difficulty when I cannot speak Spanish to someone who knows no English. Sometimes language is a barrier even when two people are speaking English to each other.
Openness, welcome and love transcend barriers that language creates. Relationships where these are present thrive even when one person speaks only English and another only Spanish.
On our first day in Monte Cristo, the three of us who would be teaching hygiene lessons took a walk through the community—our translator Blanca, Martha and me. Two women from the village accompanied us. Hilda and Maria became our dear friends that week, accompanying us daily to the school each morning to help us with the hygiene teaching there. As we walked together down the road to introduce ourselves to the people in the community and invite them for afternoon hygiene lessons, we were simply five women walking and talking and laughing together. The love that bound us together was not inhibited by a language barrier.
Becoming vulnerable by sharing love with another is costly, because love causes us to bear the pain of another. When I hear people downplay or deny the oppression and injustice experienced by others I wonder if their denial or callousness is an effort to avoid bearing the pain of others. We felt the burden of pain in Monte Cristo on Wednesday when the first well failed. But we also celebrated with this community we loved on Friday when we had a working well. Love causes us to share pain as well as celebration.
When we invest ourselves in loving relationships, we begin to learn that we are not all that different from each other. Watching Maria and Hilda interact with the children and faculty at the school, I thought about the ways I’ve seen parents involved with their children’s schools here at home. Listening to women in Monte Cristo talk about ways to improve their community, I remembered times when my own neighborhood came together to address community issues.
Cultivating such relationships during the week we spent in Monte Cristo likewise expands my capacity to love people I will never meet—especially mothers in the many places of the world who suffer hardship, danger and frustration. We are not so different from each other, wherever we live and whatever we look like. We love and work, we dream and laugh, we cry and hope. Whether we admit it or not, we are all interrelated and interdependent.
Love transcends barriers, whatever those barriers may be. Love transforms us as we give ourselves to one another. Love is the best language we can speak.