VOF Week 2: (Between a Squeak and a Roar)
Here in the Bronx, amidst the noise and the chaos and the people all jostling for space, my voice travels between a squeak and a roar. Sometimes it is so quiet I can barely hear it myself, at other times so loud and passionately outspoken, that I fear scaring people away… or worse igniting their rage.
The Bronx is a tiny example of the world. While for the most part there is peace, there are also pockets of tension that could explode at any moment. I have become acutely aware, living here, that if the wrong nerve is hit, I could get seriously hurt. I have witnessed a man getting shot and a woman getting mugged. I have seen arguments flare up simply over a car parked on the wrong side of the street and gangs spray paint their tags on the signposts on every corner to mark their territories.
I live in a community of immigrants, a new immigrant from England myself. Each of us struggles to begin our lives anew. Some are here in exile, fleeing persecution, poverty or war. Others, like me, are here for a fresh start, for the opportunities to experience life differently than we could do in our homeland. I love living here. Every day I walk through the streets feeling inspired by how different people learn to get along with each other. My senses are filled with the sight of women in Saris and Hajibs pushing their strollers alongside each other; with the scent of our cooking wafting through the hot summer air; with the sounds of our children laughing and playing basketball together in the middle of the street. It is everyone’s difference that speaks to me most. I love the ways each of us learn to understand and communicate with each other in spite of our differences in language and culture; sometimes with a nod, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a wave of the hand.
Over the Internet it is much harder to shape our communication to fit persons we cannot see. I don’t know how my words impact your heart, I don’t feel if I have been misunderstood and I don’t know, without knowing you better, without seeing your reaction and sensing your irritation, if I have come close to hitting a nerve. I have seen first hand how well people can work and live together in peace. The Internet provides the potential for a much greater global understanding.
I am here to practice using my voice. To learn if it’s even possible to speak in a way that speaks to all. Until I find the right volume between my nervous squeak and my untamed roar, I hope you’ll understand that I’m learning to understand you.