I only know him as Manish. Our conversation is somewhat garbled and confusing, crossing two language barriers. He speaks enough English to communicate, but sometimes I’m not sure he understands what I say. I only know two words in his dialect, totally useless for a full conversation.
Manish is a cart-pusher at our local chain store. I’m there as a vendor five days a week, so we see each other frequently.
After passing each other regularly, we started waving at one another and saying “Hi.” If it were extremely cold or sweltering, we’d have a short conversation about the weather—usually with us pantomiming by wiping sweat from our brow or hugging our shoulders and shivering.
I found as the weeks and months passed, I enjoyed passing him. He was always pleasant. He proved to be a dedicated and conscientious employee. I was impressed with his steady work and his attention to doing the best job he could do.
With his limited English and skin darker than mine, I knew he came from another country. But I wasn’t sure where. One day I stopped and asked him. He said he was from India and he’d been here one year. He said his parents had been here for many years, and his adult children are here.
One day I asked him, “How do you say, have a good day in your language?’”
“Aljo, or Namaste,” he replied.
When I questioned him about specific phrases for hello or goodbye, he explained that I could use either phrase for any of these greetings.
Now, as we pass or see each other, sometimes a lane or two away, we call out to each other and wave. Sometimes it’s “Aljo” and sometimes “Hello.” We interchangeably go back and forth. Although his command of the English language has grown over the past year, my knowledge of his Indian tongue, alas, has never ventured further than these two stock phrases.
It Is What It Is
One cold, dreary winter day a few months ago, we chatted in the middle of the parking. It was the second day of rain. While a high of 47-degrees was not frigid weather compared to some of the rest of the country, it’s still not warm and enjoyable. And I wasn’t out in the elements pushing carts from the parking lot to the front of the store.
I gave a mock shiver and said, “Brrrrr, it’s cold.”
Manish nodded and then shrugged his shoulders as if to say ‘It is what it is.’
I stopped, raised my hands to the drizzle drifting from the sky, and said, “I don’t know how you do it. Too cold. I couldn’t be out here all day like you are.”
A Grateful Attitude
He shrugged again and said something about just doing it. He mentioned that he has to push them all by hand. But I didn’t get the feeling that he was complaining about it. My impression from our conversation with limited vocabulary was that he felt it could be worse and was happy to have a job.
“I can’t use the cart-pusher because of my eye surgery a year ago.” He motioned towards his face. Then he gave me the broadest smile I’ve ever seen on his friendly face. He looked up in the sky, then threw his hands upward in the air. “God is good!”
I walked on to my car, humbled that I don’t always have an attitude that’s just as grateful. I felt a twinge of contriteness as I realized how his gratitude for life manifests in his everyday spirit. We don’t always have enough common words to carry a conversation, yet this man and his attitude have blessed and enriched my life.
Manish taught me a lesson through our frequent interactions. We don’t need a shared language to share a sweet spirit and grateful attitude with the others around us.
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Trisha Faye writes from Texas.© 2002 - 2023, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.