To the Editor:
I went to college in the 70s at a Jesuit University about the same size as Franklin & Marshall. Pretty much everyone there looked, talked, and thought like me. There was one tall black kid who was our star basketball center. Go Stags! Everyone liked him but no one knew him.
I spent most of my medical career in the US Air Force. Not everyone looked like me but everyone thought like me. And dressed like me. Every single day. You gotta like the color blue.
And then I came to the Franklin & Marshall Student Health Clinic and started seeing students.
Where are you from? China ? Wow. Where, show me on this map. Xian. Pronounced with an S. You sure have one modern subway in Beijing. Yeah, I’ve been there. The trick when I was lost was to find someone young. Almost guaranteed they spoke English. Guaranteed they would help me.
You’re from where. Benin? Need my atlas to find that one. You’ve had malaria? How many times!? How in the world did you wind up here?
I love your necklace. Animal bone. Your father is the Chief? Of a tribe near the Congo River? We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
Over the years it’s been like that. Your name means “Princess” in Pakistan? Are you a princess? Note to self. Read up on Mughal empire.
You take what for your acne? I didn’t know that drug was available yet. Oh it was prescribed in Düsseldorf. Just what do medicines cost in Germany?
You spent the Holidays back home in San Salvador did you. And that’s where you got that rash? And fever.. Zika in central PA? Can’t possibly be.
You just flew in from Ethiopia. I’m not surprised you’re having trouble sleeping.
But tell me. Would I like Addis Ababa?
Catch me up on Dawali? Lights eh! I think we can all celebrate that.
How do you possibly manage to cross the street in Cairo? And don’t you miss those flatbreads.
My own personal edition of National Geographic every day.
Don’t get me wrong. Everyone has a story. The kid from Ben Salem might just know a new bike trail I haven’t been on yet. And the young woman whose immigrant family is in Baltimore probably can steer me to the best crab cakes. You just gotta ask….
My point is simply this. Amid all the grinding and gnashing of teeth and of insults and microaggressions great and small, we here at F&M have the incredible opportunity to interact with people who are very much NOT like ourselves. With very different stories.
Now that’s a cause for celebration.
John Rigilano MD
Student Wellness Center
Dr. John Rigilano is a part of F&M’s Student Wellness Center. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.