Union City, California, U.S.A. – When you hear the word “union,” you think of people being brought together. It doesn’t matter if they were from another place or another culture, as long as we are able to get along and work together.
Such a description can describe my hometown, Union City, California.
My school, James Logan High School, is one of the biggest in Northern California, and I’m not surprised since students here speak 45 languages.
The school’s motto, “Diversity is our strength,” isn’t just true in the school, but also outside it. This is a serene place where the immigrant who doesn’t speak English or the rural Pacific Islander can fit in.
One time, as I waited for the P.E teacher, the quiet student came out of the locker room as usual. I decided to say hi to her since I’d never really met her in the few weeks since she first arrived at school
A sudden look arose on her face, but no response came – she smoothly walked past.
I was baffled by what just happened. “Did she have a problem?” I wondered.
Later, I figured out the problem when two girls did the same. They seemed to take offense at her response. It was not offensive though, it was just in Spanish.
It turns out that she lived in a world where everybody seemed foreign and obscure. That she, herself, is all alone in the English place.
But this isolation doesn’t prevent her from being a part of our hometown.
Today, I speak Spanish to her. She has other friends who speak the same language. Teachers who don’t think this language is a barrier or an excuse to give up are helping her.
As a result, I don’t see that gloomy, cast down face, but a smiley face that is up.
I am Filipino but we usually eat in a Vietnamese or Japanese restaurant after we go to our church. And this Vietnamese restaurant is next to an Indian snack store and the Japanese restaurant is next to a Chinese soup one.
You might imagine mean looks between these rivals, that one may taunt the other about their “rat-captivating meals.” But such assumptions are ludicrous.
Neither of them mean another any harm. They’re just ordinary people who are trying to make a profit through their business. Everybody simply smiles over the aroma of bamboo shoots and contemplates what happened today or the day before.
It’s interesting to me that our community was based upon this very principle of tolerance.
Acceptance of each other is what makes Union City what it is, and I surely appreciate it.
Without it, I wouldn’t have met that learning English-speaker. I wouldn’t have met the Japanese cook behind the counter. I wouldn’t have met the other friends I hold dearest to me, and I wouldn’t be writing this article about my hometown.
As long as our differences don’t isolate us, the world can be a better place. And we can have better communities that include people like me, sitting in this chair writing a story.
Jason Macaranas is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.