Connecting with Language by: Jennifer Kruse, LMT CRMT
That one word was the ONLY THING I said to him.
Almost 2 YEARS later,
I ran into him again...
The Result is SHOCKING TO ME!
I ordered some food at a drive-thru restaurant in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. When I got up to the window, I noticed the young man working that day was looking a bit sad & disconnected.
Without a mistake, he performed his job perfectly.
He even faked a smile as he politely said, "Thank You, Have a Good Day."
There was nothing wrong with this young man, he just looked like he didn't have a friend in the world.
I remember that feeling... I was a Teenager once too!
Looking at him...
I could tell that he was Native American, probably Ojibwe from the White Earth Indian Reservation.
I grew up near the borders of the Reservation, so I was very aware of the possible difficulties he faced.
He looked so very sad... so disconnected... so alone.
I wished there was SOMETHING I could do for him.
My gut instinct was to say Thank You in the Ojibwe Language after he had handed me the food I had ordered.
I easily could have said "Miigwech"... but I didn't.
I hesitated because he was so young.
We aren't even on the Reservation here. He might not know what "Miigwech" means!
I drove away...
I tried to continue on with my day... but he kept popping back into my thoughts.
I felt like I had FAILED this kid somehow.
I found myself WISHING that I had said "Miigwech" instead of "Thanks."
I decided to GO BACK and order something else...
just so I could Thank him in "His Language."
I went back to the Drive-thru and ordered a drink or something.
When I got up to the window...
He looked at me funny, probably recognizing me from earlier.
I just smiled at him until he gave me the drink I ordered.
Before he could say anything...
I used a caring sound in my voice and put on my best Ojibwe accent as I said, "Miigwech"
He looked startled and confused...
I searched his face for signs that he heard & understood what I said.
He looked at me, as if trying to remember if he knew me already and as he realized he did not...
the Confused look left his face.
I could see his emotions clearly, like waves washing over his face.
He looked Shocked & Surprised...
Then Touched, as he beamed a REAL SMILE at me!
"Miigwech,"he replied with a grateful & friendly nod.
He looked at me as if I was an old friend.
He didn't look sad, alone or disconnected anymore! :)
I felt satisfied seeing his reaction and continued on with my day.
That was about 1.5 to 2 Years ago.
I had lunch in Detroit Lakes last weekend... INSIDE the restaurant.
As I stood near the counter, I saw a young native man look over from inside the kitchen.
My lunch companion was a native man, I assumed these two knew each other.
I said, "there's someone who's really excited to see you!"
He looked over and didn't recognize him.
I noticed there was a native man behind me, so I quickly assumed he was looking at him.
Seated near the man who stood behind me...
I was about to approach him, to let him know there was a young man in the kitchen who he hadn't noticed...
he had looked very excited to see him.
Just then, I overheard him talking to his family... in SPANISH?
That felt wrong to me, because I know the young man in the kitchen is Native American!
I looked around the restaurant a bit... feeling a bit confused.
Who else could it have been that he was so excited to see?
It had appeared that they didn't notice he was there. I felt like I should direct whomever's attention to him in the kitchen.
This didn't make sense to me... not for a couple days.
Memories of this young man's excited face in the kitchen kept popping into my head... so I thought about it.
I remembered he looked really excited to see somebody again, but never actually talked to anyone that I noticed.
Suddenly, I realized... he was really looking at ME!
He looked excited, like seeing a SPECIAL SOMEONE he hadn't seen in a long time.
But WHY would he look at ME like that?
I had some feeling that this was the same young man from the drive-thru window almost 2 years ago...
that's part of the reason WHY I was trying to figure out which person he was so excited to see!
But the IDEA that he was looking at ME like that?
Because of what happened at the drive-thru window, so long ago?
I wasn't even completely sure this was the same young man!
I couldn't be sure... I never saw his name tag.
Thinking about it further...
He did look a little disappointed the last time I looked over, like maybe they didn't notice he was there & he couldn't come out of the kitchen to get their attention.
He seemed to be looking at me, every time I looked over at the kitchen.
I felt my heart sink...
It was ME he was looking at... he is the young man from the drive-thru window!
He recognized me after all this time??
He looked at ME as if I was an old friend or his favorite Auntie?
I feel very moved by this experience...
I also feel bad that I didn't recognize this sooner!
I only said ONE WORD to him and that was a long time ago.
Technically, I said that one word in TWO DIFFERENT LANGUAGES, but still... WOW!
It made sense after recalling all the times I heard:
"Ojibwe is the language of the Heart."~ Larry Stillday, Sr., Red Lake Elder & Spiritual Leader
"It’s a symbol of respect and you can do it for practically nothing, but it speaks volumes,’’ ~ Michael Meuers, resident of Bemidji, MN. * Meuers helped to start Bemidji’s Ojibwe Language Project, which encourages the community to learn & use Ojibwe words.
:) He was RIGHT about it speaking volumes! :)
Highly Recommend Doing This!
Attempt to CONNECT with Someone by using "their language."
It just makes sense... no matter WHERE you are!
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