Sunday, March 20, 2005

Vernon Easterhare Declares:

I'm decidedly a tiny player on the world stage. I want to write about something I did for the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW), nitty-gritty poor, hard-laboring tomato pickers from Florida who happened in from Florida to agitate locally-owned YUM! Brands for a modest wage increase and improvement in work conditions.

This victorious job action gets best journalism from CIW website (; I've not checked it out, though, as I lack a computer. All I need to do is tell you that on Thursday, March 10th, Crescent Hill Baptist Church served up a victory feast for the protesters from Florida, and I was delighted to make the most of serving to those much in need of being served. It was a joint event of Crescent Hill and Jeff Street members.

I tried the night before to think through what it would have been like for the farm workers here from Florida: speaking little or no English, in an unfamiliarly frigid climate, more wet than dry, facing daily indifference if not hostility on the Taco Bell picket lines. So I thought I would try to make our guests feel as wanted as possible. My knowledge of Spanish is vanishing, but I do have an English-Spanish dictionary. I patched together the expression, “bienvenido a nuestra iglesia!” (Welcome to our church!) and other expressions of congratulation, solidarity and friendship. I tried all these with vigor on our guests!

The other servants to the CIW folks showed equal enthusiasm, and the approximately 100 diners seemed in a celebratory, bubbly sociality; they ate well and there were seconds served. I must have shaken sixty sets of hands, and no doubt some merriment and forgiveness obtained in the farm work crew for my Anglo accent and linguistic malapropisms. But, as we shall see, communication means two hearts talking, not necessarily with perfect grammar.

So it occurred to me that a sun-kissed man who seemed to know as much English as I Spanish came up for more cookies as I served in the dessert line, saying, “Me happy! Thank you!” Apparently he liked practicing his English for the same reason I liked greeting him in his tongue.

It was a mountaintop experience, a peak experience, for me. I turned to a Crescent Hill server and said, “It doesn't get any better than this!”
Vernon Easterhare is the pseudonym of a fellow who needs no introduction


At 3/23/05, 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this story!


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