I’m not sure when I first heard of Esperanto – high school, I think.
Dr. Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof invented the language in the late nineteenth century to foster international harmony. Rather than pick one language for everyone to learn, which might leave the native speakers of that language with an advantage or an attitude, everyone would learn a new one. Though it is still around and in use, Esperanto has never really caught on.
And it hasn’t really crossed my mind until Monday.
As I was driving to work, I called my blog friend, Jimmy, who is in New Orleans building houses. Jimmy lives in Oxford, North Carolina, where he is both a carpenter and a pastor – and a beekeeper. We got to know each other as Ginger and I were moving here and he has been both a source of information and honey over the past year. He has been deeply moved by the plight of those who are still homeless and hurting because of Hurricane Katrina, so much so that he decided to see if he could raise enough money to support his family so he could go to NOLA and work for a month building houses.
When he answered the phone Monday he was already on the job, and helping to manage three or four mission groups and Christian organizations who had building teams there. It has been a month; he is not ready to come home.
“I’ve talked with my family,” he said, “and we’ve decided that as long as I can raise the money, I’ll stay here.”
Now, he does come home from time to time – such as this week for his daughter’s playoff game. Still, his heart is in the Crescent City. As we talked, he told me about the different groups there and how some of the politics and theology have gotten in the way of their cooperation. Jimmy sees part of his calling there as building bridges between groups to maximize resources and help the most people. He is working to help people see the painfully obvious: love, or should I say, Love is not limited by doctrine.
Love, I suppose, is theological Esperanto.
And though it is our Mother Tongue, that which gave birth to us, it seems it is a language we have to learn how to speak, or at least open our hearts to hear. Thank God, Jimmy is shouting it from the yet unfinished rooftops of New Orleans.
We that have ears to hear, let us hear.
You can read the stories of Jimmy’s last month at his blog, Woodshavings. The link he put up some time ago where one can send donations is broken. I encourage you to leave a comment on one of the posts and ask him how you can be a part of rebuilding New Orleans and relearning the language we all know by heart.
P. S. — Jimmy, the song is for you.