Sunday, May 22, 2011

¿Cómo estamos? I am we

In Spanish a common greeting is ¿Cómo estás? translated to "How are you?" or "How are you doing?" Years ago I noticed that often people in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean extend the greeting further by saying, "¿Cómo estamos?" or "How are we doing?" I never forgot noticing that and think about it often. A simple shift from the first-person singular to the first-person plural and we have a view of ourselves based on community. It's not about how are you doing? And then how am I doing, but how are we doing? It's a simple, but profound shift and it happened to me today at the house.

I met a neighbor today that just so happens to be the brother of my daughter's godfather. Batsbo (his dread name) was kind enough to help me cut some of the larger branches from a rotten tree we trimmed and put them into the bin. I have to mention that shortly after he began chopping anotherBold man who lives in the neighborhood walked by and after hailing up Batsbo he said, "Lion, your cutlass needs to sharpen". He continued walking until he remembered that there was a file in his bag. Who walks around town shirtless with a file to sharpen machetes in his bag? Very curious about that.

Anyway, as we continued collecting and cutting branches, I commented to him about the trash on the sidewalk, wondering why the persons who put the trash out to be collected didn't make sure it stayed in the bin. Or after seeing that if fell on the street, why wouldn't they pick it up? It was about they, and them, and those people. And then it hit me. This is my house. I am they and them and those people. Even if I didn't put it there, the trash is on the corner of the block where my house is and if I leave it there, I am just as guilty. I am them which means that I am we. If we extend that further to living on a small island, whatever trash there is, whether it be literal or societal, is really just on the corner of our block and it's really our job to clean it up.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice article! "Community" is such an important concept. Linking the phrase "Como estamos?" with cleaning up the neighborhood is insightful.
    Mike R.
    McCall, Idaho