I was walking into Target a few days ago, carrying Shane, the diaper bag, my shopping list and trying to get through the snow (see post below) and wind quickly. Two guys were cleaning the windows of the doors that lead into Target. One of them saw me coming, stopped cleaning, and came outside to hold the door for me. It was really thoughtful and helpful. I said “thank you,” he smiled.
Immediately after I spoke, I asked myself why I didn’t say “gracias.” I had been debating in those few seconds if I should or not. By the time I needed to speak, I inferred that they were of Hispanic descent and likely spoke Spanish. But, I chickened out. I worried that I wouldn’t say it correctly or that I’d sound dumb as I know very little Spanish in the first place. Or, maybe they are born and bread Americans and don’t speak a lick of Spanish. Would it have been demeaning to them then?
I’ve asked around to friends about what they would have done. Some have said there is no reason to speak Spanish, they are in America, English is the language. Others have said they might have said “gracias” and it seems that most people wouldn’t have even thought about.
I understand the “we’re in America” argument, but think that it is self-centered. In my travels in different countries I have greatly appreciated times when a local has attempted English, no matter how poor it sounded, to try to relate to me. Plus, Spanish is a rapidly growing second language.
I want to be a person that relates to people – strangers especially. How else do you show them Christ if you’re not looking for ways to relate to their personhood, even in a simple greeting?
Would you have said “thank you” or “gracias?”