No Language Required to transcend Spirit of Love

No Language Required to transcend Spirit of Love
My husband, John, and I like to participate in hosting international visitors. Last night our guests were imans---one from Algeria and the other from Mauritania. The International Affairs Council encourages us to allow our guests to experience our culture while still being sensitive to theirs. The particular interest of these visitors is interfaith dialogue. John and I both have significant interfaith experiences to draw upon, so we look forward to a rich evening of conversation. As always, we know the richness of dialogue rests squarely on the shoulders of the interpreter. Last night's interpreter was superb.

We have other house guests at this time---my stepdaughter and her dog---so before the international guests arrive we are doubled over with giggles about the situation. We have two imans, a lesbian, two dogs who won't stop barking because they're banished to the bedrooms, (Muslims regard dogs as filthy, don't have them as pets and certainly don't have meals in the same room with them), a grumpy husband and a bitchy wife because the husband thinks she's showing a bit too much cleavage for imans! Nice start to the evening.

The arrival of the guests clears the air of tension with huge smiles and outstretched hands to shake. They bring gifts. We give gifts. Facial expressions communicate as much as the interpreter. I make coffee and tea as close to what they request as possible. The Algerian iman sinks his nose into the cup of coffee because the aroma is so appealing. They relax about the dogs and even ask questions about them....although, we don't ever bring them downstairs.

Dinner runs smoothly and they seem to enjoy the food. Questions flow back and forth about religion, customs, life stories and the universally understood topic of grandchildren. John actually tries a couple of jokes---one translates well, one doesn't. But by the end of the evening, email addresses and phone numbers are exchanged and invitations are issued for visits to their countries. As they stand at the door ready to depart, I tell the interpreter to ask them if I may hug them good-bye. They both say 'yes.'

One small step for a family in North Carolina, one giant step toward international understanding if we each take the small step.

updated: 7 years ago

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