By Marc Rosenthal
I started volunteering at VIM a few months ago for the Communications Committee. VIM is such a beautiful organization and I wanted to help. But, it wasn’t until I started as a volunteer driver that I came to feel a real connection to our community and to the organization.
So far, I have been driving people to and from their appointments at VIM from all around Berkshire county. All have been Spanish speakers with varying abilities in English. This has been really interesting as my ability in Spanish is pretty limited. Spending a half an hour with them feels like a trip abroad. I am determined to learn more Spanish, but in the meantime I am enjoying finding ways to communicate. And I’m filled with admiration at the way my passengers have learned to speak English.
Everyone I have been with has been so friendly and interesting. I imagine some have difficult lives, but they don’t show it to me. One of the guys I picked up was working on a farm. He was wearing sandals in the cold winter, but didn’t even comment on the weather (I would have been complaining bitterly).
Another person I drove was a lawyer in her native Colombia, and was now working a night shift in a Pittsfield company. She spoke very good English and liked classical music. Her daughter is studying music in college. I like to play music when driving as I often do by myself but it also helps when talk is limited because of the language barrier. I played some Mozart opera as we drove. It was a nice point of connection. I also had some Spanish language music (Mexican and Cuban) and she translated for me. Even Gilbert and Sullivan went well (although it was really difficult trying to explain British humor and satire).
I feel so much good will from everyone at VIM — the patients, doctors, and staff. Every single person I have met has re-enforced my sense that there are so many wonderful and interesting people around here, from all over the world.
I wish everyone in our country could have this experience. Maybe then people wouldn’t have such twisted ideas about immigrants.