by Rachel Frank Genis, First Lutheran Member
Beginning in March, the life of every family became more complicated. As a kindergarten teacher, I found myself devoting more time to communicating with school families, especially those whose first language is Spanish. My own experiences while living in Mexico taught me how important it is to have the support of others who serve as cultural brokers, especially when you are not fluent in the dominant language. I use my language skills and understanding of U.S. systems to help people in the same way.
I’m grateful that I can communicate easily with parents and children who speak Spanish. At school, this makes me a go-to person when people are navigating unfamiliar systems, especially those that involve using English. Questions come up about everything from applying for free or reduced lunch, finding and applying for childcare, seeking financial assistance, registering motor vehicles, getting food, navigating the student assistance process, making medical appointments, transportation, translating during an appointment, how to use a computer, how to get internet or how to gain access to technology.
Recently, I’ve begun to think more deeply about what it means to serve and to be a disciple: Does serving happen only when it’s convenient for me? During a pandemic, where is the line between my own safety and the need for someone to enter a home to help set up an internet connection so that a student can attend school virtually? Is there a set number of hours that I serve others?
It seems to me that I had previously been a disciple or served on my own terms. Now I wonder: Does my service or discipleship have something to do with my position of power as a white person? What are the boundaries? Why do I consider helping someone in the community to be “service,” when I would never label doing the same thing for a life-long friend or a family member as “service?”
I am still thinking about these questions. I write them knowing that many people I encounter each day have very real needs. I write them as a person of faith, on a discipleship journey that is fueled by worship and prayer, learning and serving. I am eager to hear your thoughts and to continue this conversation in the months ahead.