Kindness Comes In Every Language

, , , , , | Hopeless | January 25, 2018

I’m on my bike riding home from work, and it’s raining heavily. I decide to detour a bit and seek shelter beneath a bridge underneath the train station. Just before I reach the bridge I see a woman who is desperately trying to get someone’s attention. I stop, thinking she wants directions or something. She starts talking to me in a language I don’t understand, but she seems very upset. She keeps mentioning the next town over and waves around a paper with the logo of the local college, which is situated right next to the station.

First I think she wants to know how the get to the next town. I tell her, using more hand gestures toward the station platforms than actual words, to take the train. She makes a walking movement and says “no euros.” I try to tell her that the town’s too far to walk from here. Eventually I pull up Google Translate on my phone and find out she speaks Arabic. I try to communicate with her through that, but she keeps waving the paper frantically. She breaks down crying in frustration. I can imagine it’s difficult to find help in a country where no one understands you, so I take her hand and say, “I’ll help you.”

Still crying, she starts kissing my hand in gratitude. I walk her over to the college, while she continues to talk to me in Arabic, and go to the reception desk, asking if someone here speaks Arabic, but the woman is now waving her paper in front of the receptionist’s face. The receptionist takes it and confirms that the lady is indeed supposed to be here for some sort of class. Relieved, I take the woman’s hand again, as she is still looking scared and confused. I tell her, “She will take care of you. You’ll be okay, now. Okay?” Again she kisses my hand and keeps talking to me. I don’t understand a word. The receptionist takes her away and I go home.

Yes, I was worried this was a scam. There are lots of refugees here who try to make you feel sorry for them and mug you in the meantime. I feel so sorry for refugees like this woman, who truly seemed desperate and scared, who no one wanted to help because she’s foreign. I hope she turns out okay.

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