Grammar Changes Lives

In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty pumped about Honduras.  I spend most of my days actively restraining myself from talking about it constantly.  That said, every once in a while a moment of terror comes where I stop and think, “What in the world am I getting myself into?”  I had one of these on Friday when I went to Stations and (much to my surprise) they were half in Spanish.

Now, I’m decent at Spanish, but for some reason, sitting in that pew on Friday, I was overwhelmed by this fear that I was never going to learn the language.  There are too many rules, too many conjugations, too many irregularities; it’s too much.   I felt certain that I was going to fail.  I hate failing to begin with, but I also have a confession: one of my primary reasons for going down to Honduras is to learn Spanish.

Let me explain.

It all started last summer when I picked up Eats, Shoots and Leaves.  Yes, it’s a grammar book but I’m a grammar teacher, so stop judging.  Anyway, in the preface author Lynne Truss makes a point about how we’re the victims of our own apathy.  She references a line in Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks:  “I’ve always wanted to learn how to spell Connecticut.”  Truss’ response: “I tend to feel that if a person genuinely wants to know how to spell Connecticut, you see, they will make the effort to look it up.”

She’s right.  What are we calling our priorities?  And are they really?  If we really wanted something, we’d make an effort to get it.  If we’re not making that effort, we should stop saying that we want it.

Fast forward a month to the trip to Honduras.

Last summer was powerful in a lot of ways but especially because it gave me a lot of confidence in my friendships with the Hondurans.  It sounds ridiculous, but I knew the friendships had reached another level by the number of dinner conversations spent talking about boys.  See, in Honduras you spend a lot of time sharing your testimony with everyone, so someone can know the most personal moments of your life and still not necessarily know you.  In these dinner conversations we weren’t sharing those really intense stories, nor were we suffering through awkward getting-to-know-you small talk.  It was laughing about silly, secret crushes.  It was girl talk.  It was awesome.

But it was still so frustrating.   I knew I was only getting half of the conversation and most of the time I didn’t know the words I needed to respond.

Beyond the silliness, Noé (my BFF in Honduras) had had a tough year.   I desperately wanted to sit and talk with him about everything that he’d gone through.   Even in English I probably wouldn’t have had the right words to comfort him with, but I at least wanted to be able to listen and understand all he was saying to me.

Once again, I found myself frustrated.

I spent the next few days trying to figure out how I could learn Spanish over the next year.  Despite my recent worries, I’m capable of learning; it’s a matter of time and commitment.  Teaching, however, doesn’t exactly leave you with loads of free time in the evenings do devote yourself to learning languages.   After a number of unworkable ideas, I realized the only way I was going to speak Spanish fluently was to live in a Spanish speaking country for an extended period of time.

That’s when I found myself returning to Truss’ words.  How badly did I want to have conversations with my friends?  Where did learning Spanish fall on my list of priorities?  I think even I was surprised at the answer.

I was standing in line next to Carol (she’s in charge of the Mission in Honduras) at the end of the trip paying the exit fees  and I told her, “I can’t do this anymore.”   I was done.  Done with not being able to understand.  Done with not being understood.  Done with the two weeks once a year.  Done with the goodbyes.

So maybe all of this makes me selfish…  half of me has this fear that people are going to read this post and… I don’t know… decide my intentions aren’t pure enough or something to support the Mission.  But I’d feel dishonest somehow without this post.  I also think a person’s motivations for any action are complicated.   My answer to most questions in high school was “both at the same time.”  I want to share Christ’s love in Honduras.  I want to learn Spanish.   Luckily for me, I can do both at the same time.


One thought on “Grammar Changes Lives

  1. Yup. Plus, God uses our imperfect intentions. Guy goes to Mass because he wants to meet a good woman at the social afterward, and he meets Jesus along the way? Fine by me.

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