Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Emergency Contact


If neither parent can be reached in case of an emergency, please call:
1.
2.
3.

This is the portion of our school registration form most often left blank. Because we live in an area supported by a rather large, unnamed software company, our population is in flux throughout the school year. We have many families who come to us only days after landing in the US for the first time, dazed and confused and desperate to know if we have a spot in our school for their child.

"Can I fill this in later? We don't know anyone here yet."

When we aren't presented with this response, we might get the names and phone numbers of grandparents or relatives with far-away area codes and questions about how often we actually have to contact these people because the time zone is quite different.

By the second year, as I am re-registering these children and doing the mindless data entry, checking for address and phone number changes within the past year, updating sibling ages and newly discovered food allergies, I am always pleased to see that the information is complete. Almost without exception, the East Indian children have emergency contacts with names like Shruthi* and Rohan* and Adithi*. They have found their community. The Eastern European families want us to call Andrzej* and Sonja* Vostek* and the Chinese children are entrusted to Qian* and Ling*. Somehow, between the time they landed in this strange country, having been presented only with a job and a few leads on where to find housing and schools, these families have located something far more valuable. People like them. People who speak their language, understand and celebrate their customs, and volunteer to pick their children up from school in an emergency. They have located their 'village.'

I am always so pleased to know that there are islands of people that support each other within our larger community. I love the diversity of our area, no matter its artificial creation, and revel in the education my girls have gotten with respect to cultural traditions and skin color. I love that they both ate a traditional Chinese tea cake before they were five and learned to pronounce their classmates' names that carry the weight of so many consonants without blinking an eye. But somehow it gives me great comfort to know that in case of emergency, the children in our school will be cared for by familiar people who truly understand where they are coming from.

Having said that, I love it just as much (if not more) when, by the third year, I'm entering the name Sally Johnson* on Abhishek's* emergency contacts and the Jewish family in their class wants us to call Abhi's* mom if we need help.
*all names are fabricated for the purposes of this blog post.

4 comments:

Jerri said...

One of your special gifts is to notice and appreciate such a thing while doing data entry.

You're a wonder, my friend. A living, breathing wonder.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

This made me cry! Nicely done!

Deb Shucka said...

I love how you made both ways beautifully strong and wonderful, and that you have given the gift of this diversity to your girls.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Beautiful.

And may I put your name down for an emergency contact?

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