Have you ever pondered whether or not expressing your love and care for someone could be done without words?
It was the end of the summer in Ecuador as I stood beneath the blistering sun, and I was gathering with a group near a church in an impoverished village. There were hundreds of children who congregated on the dirt floors and few benches of the area to receive their Operation Christmas Child Shoebox which are, literally, shoeboxes filled with age-appropriate trinkets and gifts. As I cut the cardboard boxes open to reveal the shoebox gifts inside, a cry continued to grow louder and louder. After hearing the repeating cry, I turned to look at a little girl who seemed to be shedding tears of fear. I immediately went over to her and tried to pick her up, but I was pushed away. Next, I tried sitting beside her and rubbing her back. To no avail, the tears did not subside. Determined to not walk away, I tried one last time to hold her. This time, I got her! Her sobbing did not stop as I carried her over to the side while I continually rubbed my hands up and down her back. After several gentle rubs and smiles from me, her crying came to a halt.
My attempts to converse with her in the few Spanish words I knew were futile. These children spoke only Spanish, and I spoke only English. Our ability to communicate verbally was non-existent. I was never able to solicit a response in words from this dark-eyed, dark-haired, colorfully dressed three year old. I don’t think it was because she was afraid. I think it was most likely a result of her shyness. Although we never spoke a word to each other, she felt safe in my arms because I comforted and cared for her. By simply holding and stroking her, she was soothed and consoled in my arms, where she sensed my love and compassion. I believe that the international language of a hug, the international language of a smile, the international language of a high-five, or simply holding a person in your arms can break any language barrier and can be effective at a base level in communicating genuine feelings and emotions for an individual.
Why this little girl was crying in the first place, I will never know. However, I do know that because of a hug, a smile, and a place of comfort in my arms, she understood the sincere thoughts the language barrier prevented me from saying in words. Her name I will never know either, but her sweet face remains a picture etched in my heart.
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