While I was attending graduate school, my husband took contracts as a foreign-language interpreter. As a working professional, he was invited to join a small group of interpreter/translators, who met monthly in the metropolitan area where we resided. (Interpreters work with spoken language; translators work with written language.)
Although we were very busy, these monthly luncheons and dinners were much anticipated, joyous events with an international vibe, which included husbands, wives and sometimes children. A great deal of business information was shared, as well as the occasional matter regarding our personal lives.
The group’s informal membership represented a wide range of cultures. Many members had a wife or a husband who had emigrated, after marrying a U.S. citizen who had been overseas studying or on exchange. Thus, there was always something interesting, new or fun to learn from someone.
One afternoon, after sitting down to lunch in a small restaurant conference room, I heard several people discussing a recent tragedy which had been in the local news. (A local family had lost their only child in an accident.)
As the incident was discussed, I listened in surprised silence as minute details, which had not been part of the news reports, were carefully related to the membership in attendance. The discussion was not a sensationalistic disclosure, but a compassionate and concerned relating of the accident’s unpublished details and emotional facts.
At the time, I remember observing the tender care the speaker was taking in relating additional information about a very public news item and wondering why such a level of discretion was being applied to an incident which has been broadcast over almost every medium in the city.
Then, at some point in the telling, it became clear the the “people in the news”–the strangers–were actually a family who had attended an interpreter-translator meeting, which my husband and I had missed.
My heart fell. This “news item” was not about “those” people in the community out there, but it was about “our” people in our immediate community right here.
We are all “the people in the news.”
Thus, all tragedy should be addressed, spoken about, reported on and reacted to–with this same level of compassion, as if whatever has occurred has happened to one of our own.