I was going to get to drive Marvin again, and I was more than a little excited. Yes, Laura and I name our cars. Marvin is the gray Toyota Matrix we owned when we lived in Minneapolis that we bequeathed to Laura’s mom after getting that wild hair over four years ago to move to Central Asia. Unfortunately, Marvin was too big to fit into our checked luggage, so he got left behind.
It our first morning back in the United States, so naturally we were heading to an eye appointment. The sky was the same color as Marvin, just a few shades lighter, and a light rain fell. I tried to remember Marvin’s weird clutch as I made my way through Minneapolis city streets in search of the Interstate 94 onramp.
It was almost too much to take in: the speeds we were able to attain on the interstate, how orderly, respectfully, and safely people were driving, and all the well-indicated road markers and painted lines. We pulled off Interstate 94 and parked in the lot outside the eye doctor’s office. You may not believe me, but every single car in that lot was correctly parked between its own two lines. Miraculous.
The woman at the desk cordially greeted us when we entered. “I’ll be with you in a minute.” I was dumbstruck. I didn’t have to ask her to repeat herself even one time because I didn’t recognize the grammatical structure she’d used or because she’d said a word they hadn’t taught me at language school. I was even able to understand every last word on the release form she asked us to sign. I felt like a capable, intelligent adult. It felt strange. And refreshing.
We sat in the waiting room until called. I went in first. Up until then, things had been noteworthy, but it was the woman who talked to me before I saw the eye doctor that finally got to me. It’s hard to put it into words. Perhaps it was her general demeanor, her tone of voice, her overall warmth, and dare I say it, the sense of compassion she seemed to exude. She talked to me as if I was a real, living, feeling human being, an equal, a person with value. She made small talk, made an effort to relate to me. She didn’t raise her voice or bark orders as if I were a child even once. I felt like she was somehow legitimizing my place in the wider culture into which I’d so suddenly been plunged. Where I live such treatment is not the norm, and for me to ever feel so accepted is as rare as a meal without tea. Even had she not just put drops in my eyes to dilate them, they still would have been watery.
I don’t even know the woman’s name, but without her having the slightest clue, she gave me a very memorable welcome back to the country of my birth, and for that, I’m grateful. Even the smallest acts of kindness do not go unnoticed. Especially by people who have so recently arrived to this country from a faraway land.