Up Front and Personal

Languages Tell Stories, Love Speaks Volumes

By Rita E. Piro

For me, being able to speak two languages besides my native English has always been a gift. While many of us who are multilingual acquired our language skills at home among our parents, grandparents, and other family members who emigrated from other countries, I first learned Spanish and Italian during my high school years. In college and graduate school, I majored in Romance Languages and Theology.

Language is such a great connector in our lives. I have found myself in so many situations where my second-language ability not only helped me but, more importantly, aided someone else, usually a complete stranger. For a moment, pretend you have little or no ability in English, yet you need to do something as simple as buying a container of milk.

Maybe you are in need of medical attention for yourself or a family member. Perhaps you just want to find out where the nearest house of worship is. A joyous look of relief and gratitude over- comes you if you are able to understand and communicate such matters.

Recently, however, I found myself in a situation where my grasp of another language led to distress. I was in a mom- and-pop store that had a display inviting patrons to contribute unwrapped toys for children in need. As I watched the owner

move around the toys in the bin, I overheard him explaining to another man — in their native tongue — that every year he takes home toys he thinks his grandchildren will like and leaves the leftovers.

While my immediate instinct was to expose the owner in the loudest, clearest voice, the times in which we live made me think twice for safety reasons. I left the store seething, wishing for a dozen lumps of coal in the owner’s stocking.

We cannot allow ourselves to become distracted by the self-centered, mean-spirited, and misguided actions of others. Instead, we need to seek out and focus on the many opportunities we have each day to positively impact the lives of those suffer- ing around us.

In the diocese, we have these opportunities right at our fingertips through many giving initiatives, including The Tablet’s Bright Christmas Fund, giving trees in parishes, projects undertaken by our schools and academies, and various FDNY/NYPD, military, and community endeavors.

These programs give us a chance — and challenge —to become fluent in the greatest language known — the language of love, the language of the Christmas season, and the language of Jesus.

Rita E. Piro is a multi-award-winning writer for The Catholic Media Association and a lifelong resident of the Diocese of Brooklyn.