You should be dancin’…

“There are nine members of the family – we will need two cars to get them to their medical appointment. Can you help?”

For the past several years, i’ve been supporting the mission of our local Refugee Resettlement program. The vast majority of arrivals in my city are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Most of my transportation runs are to get 2-3 family members to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for official ID cards, or taking one person to a medical appointment.

The primary language in DRC is French – and mine is pretty rusty. i’ve learned a couple words in Swahili, but my comprehension is non-existent. So i start with music – something upbeat, fun, targeting Beatles, Michael Jackson, and other international pop icons. As we get settled in the car, i tell them “i’m going to play some music!” and then we roll.

It seems to work.

Many times, while traveling abroad, i’ve been in a situation where i’m in a taxi and do not speak the language of the driver. It’s a little more comfortable if the driver is playing music, and happily bopping along. The best way to crush the awkward silence.

So i sing. i car dance.

Many arrivals from the DRC have been waiting a long time to get here. They have experienced things that i cannot comprehend. But my job is transport. i do not ask. Drive the car, and be-bop to the tunes. Assist with the paper work, pulling out the ol’ Google Translator as needed.

My SUV will comfortably transport 7 adults. For the large family transport run, it was me and 6 others, ranging in age from 4 to 19 years old. Mom, Dad, and the adorable 2 year old went with the other driver.  The oldest daughter rode up front with me, and the rest of the children were tucked into the back.

Her English was pretty good. When i said “i like to play music” she said “That’s good!” and away we went! It was early October, and when “Thriller” came on, it seemed that even the younger members of the family recognized it.

“Dance Party!” i announced – and we all hit it hard, while cruising downtown toward the public health clinic for their appointment. Smiles, laughs, expert moves, and genuine curiosity about the crazy white-haired granny gettin’ down with her bad self behind the wheel of the Ford truck!

The original plan was to have another driver pick them up in a couple hours, but i let the program coordinator know that i was available that afternoon if needed. He sent me back downtown to assist with pick up. My heart turned to mush when i was greeted in the lobby by smiling, dancing children.

We car danced the entire drive home. And i cried a little after i said goodbye.

When i first started supporting the program, i wanted to only do housing set up, or collect items to support arriving refugees. i was afraid to work directly with the clients. Reluctantly, i agreed to start doing client transport – because that was the greatest need.

Getting outside of my comfort zone has led to the most rewarding volunteer gig i’ve ever had…

Multicolored futuristic wings on white background

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


22 thoughts on “You should be dancin’…

    • Truly, the universal language. Today, i provided a ride to a young woman going to the dentist – and she’d never seen snow before, and was admiring the 1″ dusting we’ve got on the ground. As much as i hate it this early in the season, i put on ‘let it snow’ and sang along…

    • We have a good bit of national shame up this way, too. Especially at our southern border. For the month of October, no refugees were admitted to the US. A combination of policy and incompetence within the current administration. Humans who have been waiting for years, fully “vetted”, doing it “right”, had flights scheduled – that had to be canceled. It makes me sick.

  1. Welcome back! I think you’ve got a “thing”! This sounds more rewarding and interesting than comedians driving around in cars getting coffee.

    • Felt the urge to hoark this up – have been doing more transport runs this month, and it definitely is a “thing”. Something I can do between road trips! Didn’t like that this space has become not much more than a travelogue, so there will be an attempt at posting weekly. Or weakly… Or both!

  2. Your story of music and love brought tears to my eyes… I don’t know why you don’t just write about poop… like the other bloggers… 😉

  3. You possess more humanity and compassion in your little toe than most people (especially in this country) possess in the whole of their being. There is a certain bit of happiness and serenity in knowing that these people have you to help them… and guess who has had to dust of his whistle? I’m back to coaching hoops for the winter, most likely my swan song, it’s a bit of a long story but Buttermaker rides again!

    • You were born to coach. I’ll be over to The Asshat to catch up soon. Today, i drove 6 members of the same clan to Public Health for immunizations. Mom and 5 children. I had planned to drop them off, and pick up when they were done. The interpreter was held up in traffic – eldest daughter asked “but who will help us?” And I stayed, working with the glorious receptionist to get them checked in, until the interpreter arrived 10 minutes later. I gave her my number, told her to call when they were about done. When I came back, she asked if I was their social worker. “Oh, no! I’m just a volunteer, helping with transportation!” She thanked me. I cried. This happens damn near every time I do this…. It’s hard, but not in the way I expected. I cry a lot in my car.

    • It really is a small thing – i have even taken to loading my car with surplus scarves, gloves, and hats, as many of them are such recent arrivals, the weather here is a shock. Small things = big things.

    • i’m not alone. there is a cadre of old retired people who find a niche and go forth doing good deeds. we are old enough to know that we can’t change the big stuff, so we go after it one small pixel at a time…

  4. Very reassuring to read about your efforts to assist those in need. There are very many good people in the world. I believe they out number the bad.
    I might not have thought of playing music. It really is a universal language. Happy upbeat music – people with a smile. Wishing you the best on you doing the best.

    • There are more good than bad. i have to believe this or i’d go completely insane! If we all do what we can, from where we are, with what we have, we can keep the bad people at bay…

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