I was sitting at my desk typing yesterday when I heard voices talking right next to me. There was absolutely no one around yet the voices were right next to me carrying on a conversation with each other. I could understand everything they were saying. I have never been diagnosed as psychotic, but I understand that one hears voices. Yep, these were voices alright. All of a sudden the air conditioner next to my desk kicked on and I could no longer hear the voices. Strange! I shut the air conditioner off so I could hear them again because I wanted to know where they were coming from. Once I got near the air conditioner, I could tell the voices were coming through the vents in the air conditioner. Somehow the people in the street below were positioned in such a way that the air conditioner was a conduit for their voices. Whew! What a relief!
This reminded me of the time we had a 30-year-old young man from the Caribbean stay with us while he went to the community college near our home. Hewitt had lived on a 10 x 15 mile island his whole life. He had never been off the island. When he flew to the United States to live with us, he was in major land shock. He had never traveled so far (from Philadelphia to Williamsport) and not run into water. He said, “Man, this country is BIG! You can go and go and go and you never run out of land.” Well, the voices in the air conditioner made me think of what happened shortly after his arrival. We were running the dishwasher after dinner and I found Hewitt lying on the kitchen floor looking up under the dishwasher. I was a bit puzzled, but figured he had simply lost something when he asked, “Who is washing the dishes in there?” I thought he was kidding until I realized he wasn’t and simply said, “There is no one in there. There is a spinning stainless steel arm thrusting water on the dishes and knocking the food off.” He got up slapping his knee and chuckling, “You Americans, you think of everything!”
This was the first of many such instances as Hewitt became acquainted with America. He was like a joyful kindergarten child going off to school to make new friends and explore new worlds. His fascination with everything caused me to see my home, my neighborhood, my city, my state and my country with new eyes. Before Hewitt rode the escalator at the mall dozens of times up and down, up and down, I never thought how “marvelous and wonderful” it was. Some things, however, scared him because he didn’t understand them, like the time he ran in the house hollering, “Mom, mom the trees are dying. The trees are dying all over the city. Call someone quick.” I couldn’t understand what he meant so I had him take me outside and show me. He made a broad sweep with his hand to say, “Look at all the trees on this block. They are losing their leaves, and it is like this all over town.” Hewitt had never seen a deciduous tree. Once I explained it is a simple cycle in the trees’ lives, he was ok. Over time things and events became common and he settled in. He began to lose that child-like awe as he matured in his assessment of his new country. I, however, never lost my awe of him. This man, with only a 6th grade education, came to the United States to take remedial courses at the community college. That was in 1993. Today he has a Master’s Degree and works as a case manager for the rehabilitation of some of the toughest young people in Philadelphia.
My husband and I have been privileged to know some of the greatest people in the world. They are not household names, but they are people who made the most of every opportunity they were given and are paying it forward. Hewitt is at the top of our list. Every now and then as I go about my day, something will happen, like an air conditioner “talking”, that transports me back in time to precious people like Hewitt and the memories I have of time spent with them.
Blessed beyond what I deserve,