In honor of today being The International Day of Peace I found a short story by Maya Angelou I would like to share:
A Bridge Of Words
Fifty years ago, during a visit to Yugoslavia, I made it my business to learn Serbo-Croatian. While performing in the country, I was invited to a home to meet some other artists, writers, and composers. In the home was a grandmother. Her face was immediately struck with panic, when she saw me.
The host, hostess, and other guests came quickly and apologetically to me.
"Miss Angelou, please excuse her. She is 80 years old. She has never seen a black person before."
I greeted her in Serbo-Croatian, "Good evening, Madame." I asked, "Will you please sit with me?" She gazed at my face and then touched my cheek. Her hand then touched my hair and now my other cheek. She then called to her granddaughter. "Go and bring food and drink."
The grandmother began speaking to me so fast, I could not keep up, and we laughed. She left the room and returned with the grandfather. He screamed and turned quickly to escape; the grandmother caught him by the arm and guided him to the sofa. He sat on one side of me and she sat on the other. The grandmother told him I was a good girl, because I spoke a little Serbo-Croatian, he declared me a Yugoslav. Just a very dark one.
He asked, "Who is your father?"
What a strange name for a Croatian. But I am sure I know him. Who is his father?"
"Vilyon? What does he do? I know everybody. I am 93 years old."
"He was a farmer."
"Oh yes, I knew him. His farm was just over the mountain. His father was better than he."
No one could have convinced the grandfather that I belonged to a different race and country.
The grandfather reached out to me because I tried to speak his language. If you make an effort and try to understand someone's world, you can overcome history, culture, and separation. This memory makes me weep with love and joy.