Lost in Translation

The woman on the phone, speaking heavily accented Spanish, introduced herself as Consuela to Rebecca, the coordinator and translator for our bilingual group Mujeres Unidas en Fe (Women United in Faith). Consuela said that she wanted to visit the group and offer a Medicaid presentation. It seemed a little odd to Rebecca, as the current administration has drastically cut funding for public outreach around healthcare, North Carolina has refused to expand Medicaid coverage, and it is generally unavailable to persons who are undocumented. “I’ll bring a variety of options, and a gift for each of the women,” Consuela explained. “It will be a Medicaid party.”

From time to time we’ve hosted presentations about urgent issues such as legal rights, family emergency plans, and local law enforcement. Rebecca figured that perhaps there were healthcare options of which she was unaware. So she said yes to Consuela’s offer and arranged for her to come last week.Old woman

Juanita and I were the first to arrive. Rebecca approached us, laughing heartily. Clarity had dawned on her earlier that morning when Consuela had called back to confirm her visit. “You won’t believe what I’ve done,” Rebecca said, rolling her eyes. The others began to gather. And then Consuela breezed in, lugging two carry-on-size suitcases. She pulled out a palette and personal mirror-on-a-stand for each of us and set them up around the table. I was at my first “Mary Kay party.” Continue reading


Last week was a rough one. Across the globe, images of the destruction of Aleppo broke our hearts, painfully reminding us of all the places in our world torn apart by hatred and violence. At home, on the national level, the president-elect named to his cabinet more billionaires, handing positions of responsibility to men who advocate for increased military firepower, refuse Palestine’s right to exist, and deny climate change. In my state, in a blatant power grab, Republican legislators called a surprise special session, passing bills stripping authority from our Democratic governor-elect and the state board of education. And, locally, the release of the investigative report on last summer’s killing of a young black man by a white police officer left members of the victim’s family angry and distraught.

I was relieved when Friday evening rolled around and the week was behind us. I was headed to participate in a tradition launched more than seventy years ago and now, since 2002, an annual event in our little rural town (except the two years when snowstorms made travel impossible). At the mountaintop home of my neighbors Janet and Sam, a rainbow of humanity gathered in candlelight, the warm room humming with conversation over sips of spiced tea. christmas

Sam, dressed in a colorful green jacket from 1960s Bavaria—a gift he later described as “what a Bavarian farmer wore to the pub on Sunday while his wife attended Mass”—blew a few discordant notes on a long, slender brass horn to get our attention. He read an original poem, exhorting us to “sing to keep God’s world intact…sing hope that kindles courage in our hearts, sing discord into harmony of many parts.” Then, accompanied by piano, guitar, and lute, we sang Christmas carols from music booklets mimeographed in 1941, just before the U.S. entered the Second World War. People shouted out the numbers of their favorites, and we filled the room with joyful noise. Continue reading