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The Universal Language


Living in an apartment limits one to the types of things you can do for leisure. In my case, I wasn't able to barbecue, no balcony, and the only grass available was the patch outside the window. It was fly because it was large, had hardwood floors throughout and was downtown in my city. But that was about it. My neighbor was a friend, my buddy in the apartment behind mine. But other than that, human interaction of a neighborly fashion was nonexistent.


I've since moved into a great, predominately hispanic neighborhood, with few english speakers. With the help of my ramshackle 'spanglish', google translate & friends, a brother gets along quite well. The neighborhood kids who play with my son are all bi-lingual, so through the kids we all bond. Everyone knows the kids are all in a certain neighbor's field kicking the soccer ball around. Or they're at another neighbor's house with dinosaurs and Gogurt. Chillin'.


The house with the Cuban flag is full of good people; lots of laughter and two-hand touch football. The house with the Navy flag is the starting gate point for all bike races. No one goes in the street. Period. Some of the bigger kids up the block skateboard and always throw the errant soccer ball back from over the fence. Super chill. My spanish has been getting a LITTLE better. I'm able to wax about home tips and all kinds of things, despite the small language barrier. But one thing that's well understood by all neighbors is the problem of people speeding down the street. The occasional zooming car is always a consternation point for us parents. The language of safety is universal.


One day I decided to write a public comment about just that very thing. I decided to take an opportunity to explain my sentiment as a parent; but also for the other parents. I discovered many in the neighborhood I live in have what I'll term "mild disillusionment" with participating in local government. Mild. It feels that the over-arching thought is that their voice really "won't matter" because they're not "big people". That's me translating, ever so roughly, my backyard over-the-fence conversations.


So as I was writing I had a knock at my back porch door. I arrived to find my neighbor with a plate of food. The arrachera, some chicken and a little tupperware of salsa was looking like heaven in his hands. He told me the food was for me, he saw that I was home and, hey, enjoy! He knows I'm just a single, blue-collar working type dude who is most likely working rather than relaxing at any given time. So it meant a lot that as he and the family were celebrating his daughter's 3rd birthday, they made a plate for the brother next door. The languages of safety & charity are universal.


I've since reciprocated that gesture. I made like 3 blenders of margaritas one day while working in the yard and myself and my man next door had the world's coolest Sunday one weekend. But that's what I'm doing every day. And after I ate that food that day I finished what I hoped would be a moving highlight of said speeding problem. I did it with purpose. I did it with vigor. I did it with alacrity.


I did it with all the thoughtfulness and foresight of people who have issues, but don't feel listened to. And after I did it it felt good. It felt as good as that food tasted; it was marvelous. All languages can be learned, over time.


Be fluent in the universal language(s).



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