Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Blast From the Past - Helping those Around Us

Originally posted in 2007.
Re-posted here because we are very busy
doing our very fun things...hope your week is
going well...

I have an acquaintance named Jenny. Jenny is Chinese and has lived in the States for many years but has not taken the time to learn the English language very well. When I met Jenny for the first time she attended our church and was the manager of the local Chinese Restaurant. Her daughter was living in China with Jenny's parents and things were very different. Then, a few months later Jen-Ye came to live with her mother and Jenny began going to a Chinese church so that Jen-Ye would not lose her Chinese heritage.

Several months ago we ran into Jenny at a local restaurant. She introduced me to her parents who are now living with her, as well. They are lovely people but they cannot speak English and I felt their discomfort as they attempted to communicate through Jenny as she is not fluent in our language, either.

In November we learned that Jenny's father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Chen, had been involved in an automobile accident. Can you imagine not being able to speak the language and being in an accident. The police attempting to question you and you wanting so desperately to explain...

Well, not long after this there was a summons to court. Jenny and her parents were terrified. Why were they being called to court? Did they do something wrong? We attempted to reassure them that they would be fine but without reading the documents we were unclear as to the purpose of the court date. I felt so badly for them as the court appearance was scheduled for the day after Christmas. What a shadow that must have cast on their celebrations.

Jenny requested that our Pastor show up to be with them in court on that day and that he would bring other "English" friends to support her father. I was glad to be able to go along but was apprehensive because I didn't know what to expect either.

Pastor Mike and I got there and could see into the courtroom from an outside window. There sat Mr. Chen, his Granddaughter and an interpreter. Jenny had not yet arrived. We wondered if the case had been moved up and we were missing it or what the story was. As we were debating what to do another young man showed up looking nervous. He asked us where the witnesses were supposed to go. It turns out he was a witness to the accident involving the Chens.

A very concerned Jenny hurried into the District Justice office. She was assured that her father's case had not yet started and the Police Officer involved in the case took us out into the hallway and explained what was happening. It turns out that the girl in the other car was fighting the charges pressed against her and Mr. Chen was simply there to tell the court that she had attempted to pass him unsafely on the right. The other witness had been driving past and seen the accident and he was simply to share his knowledge of the experience. I was so thankful that this officer let Jenny know and she was SOOOO relieved. My heart aches for the torment that she and her parents were in up until this time. It is so sad that they did not understand this before then.

When we were allowed into the courtroom this was all explained to Mr. Chen through, Sandy, his Chinese interpreter. He was also asked by the Police officer to remove his hat in the courtroom. I don't know why I found this interesting...it just struck me that somewhere there are still rules of conduct and they apply to everyone. I was pleased that the police officer cared enough to let Mr. Chen know that before he appeared before the Judge.

After testimony by all involved, including the swearing in of the interpreter, the case was very short...maybe 20 minutes. The Judge found the other driver was guilty of the charges she had received. He declared it over.

Poor Mr. Chen was still trying to show diagrams to explain his side of the story and wanted to make sure that everyone understood exactly what happened. It was so wonderful to see the look of absolute relief when he broke into a huge smile and took a deep breath as he realized it was over and he was not in trouble.

I do not know how we will help this family improve their English skills but I am hoping for the opportunity to see that they get some help in this regard. They were so frightened..and this so needlessly.

I am thankful for Pastor Mike's attempts to help Jenny improve her language skills...maybe this will, in turn, help her parents. These are practical things that we can do to minister to those around us.

Updated to add: Jenny now attends our church again. She is a lovely woman who continues to work on her English. Every week Jenny brings a lovely bouquet of roses to set in the vase on top of the piano.
She says they are for me...but I am very willing to share with the others in our congregation. smile...however, I am the only one who gets to enjoy their fragrance throughout the service...so nice!



detweilermom said...

I am so glad that you were there for this family.

Mrs.Rabe said...

I remember that! Poor things.

The roses every week are lovely!

Vee said...

Ahhh, another vacationing blogger! Hope that you and yours are having a good time or that you are getting lots done or whatever it is that is keeping you away right now.

Interesting story...I know no Chinese people, but I have seen lots of Somalians with similar troubles. They don't seem to be quite as concerned by it as your friends. I hoep that everyone coming to a new country takes the time to learn the language and hope that if I were to move to a new country that I'd be responsible enough to learn the language as well. I'm sure that it is a big help to your friends just to be with you all and learn from that.

Terri and Bob said...

Hey, sweet girl!

Just stopping in to check in on you. I have been neglectful of my blogger friends!

Anonymous said...

What a great story. I love hearing stories of people helping each other out.

I love to pay it forward and sometimes go out of my way to help another person. Sometimes it comes back to me and sometimes it doesn't.

Elena said...

That is such a beautiful story. My brother is a TESL teacher. He has taught for years at the University of Chicago helping foreign students to improve their English skills. He spent 2 years in Mainland China in the 80's teaching English. So, this story is very close to my heart!

SmilingSally said...

This is one fear of mine: to be in a country where another language is spoken and not be able to be understood. Terrifying.