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How Faith Transcends Language Barriers

No matter what divides us, something bigger brings us together.

Edward Grinnan
Credit: Katye Martens Brier

I wasn’t planning to write a blog this week. But not because I forgot to.

That’s a joke, by the way, if you haven’t been keeping up with my recent blogs on memory issues.

It’s just that I’m taking a few days off back in New York to catch up on things in anticipation for the fall and possibly spending more time in the city if this hyper-contagious Delta variant doesn’t derail the recovery. I’m vaccinated, but I’m still wearing a mask indoors and being careful. I feel like I dodged a bullet, and now I have to worry about the ricochet. 

Today I had a person come to the apartment to help with the cleaning. It’s a service we’ve used a few times during these pandemic months while we were in Massachusetts. Amazing how dusty a small city apartment can get when no one is living in it regularly, and there’s a lot of construction on the block. 

She introduced herself as Maria, and it soon became apparent that she spoke little English and with a heavy Russian accent. We were both masked, not that that should make any difference, but it felt as if it did. How would I explain to her what we needed done? I planned to be away for a few hours at a dentist appointment.  

Technology—so often a nemesis—came to the rescue. She would speak a question into her iPhone in Russian and by virtue of an app, probably Google Translate (isn’t everything Google?) her question would be verbalized in English. As in, “Where are the laundry facilities?” I would say the answer—”the basement, take the north elevator”—and it would be translated into Russian. I watched, fascinated, as the Cyrillic letters magically appeared on her screen. I didn’t know I could speak Russian. Well, sort of.      

I was about leave her to it when I noticed a small silver cross on a chain around her neck. I said, “Thank you and God bless you, Maria.” The Russian words appeared on her screen, but I don’t think she needed the translation. She smiled and said, “You, too,” in English. 

Amazing how small the world is these days and how faith brings us closer. After months of relative isolation, I felt a little more connected to it. As I said, I wasn’t planning to produce a blog, but I had to tell you about this. 

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