Thursday, March 26, 2015

The One Where We All Deserve To Be Seen #sol15

Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.

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This winter, I was in Chicago for a conference at one of the big convention centers. It was the end of the day and the exhibit hall had just closed. On my way out, I stopped in the bathroom and as I made my way to a sink, there was a woman wiping down the counter. When she turned, I saw my aunt who used to work at a hotel in housekeeping. She was dressed in a uniform, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail away from her brown face. I saw kindness in her eyes. Thinking of my aunt who worked for many years in a similar (thankless) job, one that not many people would envy, I smiled and started talking to her in Spanish. 

I know for a fact that a younger me would have smiled or said hi, but probably wouldn't have engaged in as much conversation as I did now. I've changed over the years, I've learned to not be ashamed of speaking Spanish or embarrassed to talk to the Hispanic woman who cleans the bathrooms. I'm happy that identify more and more with being Hispanic. But it makes me sad because there was a time when I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

It was an emotional moment. 
I thought of how much I love my aunt. 
I thought of how proud I am of my heritage. 
I thought of how I see myself in this hard-working, Hispanic woman cleaning the bathrooms.

Later that week, I was walking down the hallway of a school while class was in session. It happened to be one of our schools with a low Hispanic population so it doesn't have bilingual or dual language classrooms. Coming down the hall with a wide broom was a young Hispanic man. His keys jingled as he methodically swept the floor. I smiled at him and he nodded at me. I saw kindness in his eyes, too. 

It was another emotional moment.
I thought of how much I love my aunt.
I thought of how proud I am of my heritage.
I thought of how I see myself in this hard-working, Hispanic man sweeping the floors.

It became an even more emotional moment.
I thought of years before when I was a hard-working, Hispanic woman teaching and learning with students.
I thought of other times in the same hallway when a colleague didn't see me. 
I thought of how it didn't just happen once.
To him, I was invisible. 

I'm not sure why he wouldn't talk to me, why he ignored me. Maybe it was the color of my skin? Maybe it was because I'm a woman? Maybe it was because I'm young? I have no idea. But I do know we all deserve to be seen. 

It doesn't matter 
what color we are, 
where we are from, 
what language we speak, 
what job we do, 
what we believe in, 
who we love.

We all deserve to be seen.

We all deserve a smile, a hello, an exchange of small talk. I have noticed that if I smile first, people usually smile back. Not always. But the ones who have kindness in their eyes do. And maybe the ones who don't could use more smiles in their lives.

To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below:

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