So there’s this Arab woman who cleans at my work. Her mother cleans at the seminary next door and is the sweetest woman, but unlike her mother, she doesn’t smile. And I knew she was coming to work today and I have to admit that I was pretty nervous.
But I said hello to her and she said hello to me. And she doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Arabic, so we shared a few Hebrew words ridden with horrible grammar.
And you see, there’s this unfortunate reality that’s been created, one in which I’m afraid that she may take the knife I’m using to cut my veggies and plunge it into my neck. And It’s not unfounded, because there has been quite a bit of neck plunging as of late.
And so I did what I felt I had to.
I offered to make her breakfast and coffee.
And she declined.
And then she looked up and she smiled and said thank you.
A very shy smile but it was there, and I saw her mother’s kind face in it.
And so it seems as though I’m having a moment of pure idealism.
Oh that pesky idealism that I was so sure I had eradicated from my oh so sensitive heart that performs like a richter scale.
But there it is.
And it is begging her not to hate me.
And it is begging me not to hate her.
And it is begging the world not to make us hate each other.
And then I walked into the living room, and one of my students asks me if the cleaner only speaks Arabic, and I said yes, why? And she said she’s trying to make a sign in Arabic that says “thank you”.
Because, she says, “This is how you change the world, and create a relationship”
And she is oh so right.
And I vaguely recall that once upon a time I believed in that kind of peace and coexistence too.
But too much cold has made it hard for me to envision that kind of warmth.
And I’m not about to jump back on the idealistic band wagon, not just yet, not while there is still a lot of plunging going on.
Not while my legs are shaking.
But, I will always smile at her, and I will offer her breakfast and coffee.
And I will not forget how they said she smiled sooo sooo big when they gave her the sign.
And that is enough for me, for now.