Nashville, Tennessee—Nathan is twelve. He is on his way to soccer practice. His mother is driving. He is in the backseat of the car. He sees something.
“Pull over, Mom!” says Nathan.
It’s a family, walking along the shoulder of the road. They are Hispanic. A woman pushes a stroller, two young boys walk behind her. None of them speak much English.
But this is no problem. Nathan has been taking Spanish in school. Nathan translates. He tells his mother that the family’s car has broken down.
So, his mother calls a tow truck. While they wait, Nathan’s mother treats the family to supper. They carry on choppy conversations in broken tongues. Nathan translates the best he can.
By the end of the night, two families have become friends. And to shorten a long story, today Nathan is a grown man who can say things in Spanish, and explain them.
For instance, Nathan tells me: “Did you know that ‘bondad’ means ‘goodness’ in Spanish? It’s my favorite word.”
Katy, Texas—She is an EMT student. She doesn’t know whether she wants this for a career. She’s been on ride-alongs, sitting in ambulances, watching emergency workers. She has seen some terrible scenes.
“The first accident I ever saw,” she says, “was so traumatic, I couldn’t stop thinking about it for months. I just didn’t know if I was cut out to be a paramedic.”
One night, she is walking into a movie theater. She sees an old woman leaving the theater. The woman stumbles on the curb and falls onto her face.
Blood. Broken bones. Hollering. It is a mess.
The EMT in her kicks into action. The staff brings her an emergency first-aid kit. She dresses the woman’s wounds just like she’d been studying. She immobilizes the woman’s neck. She keeps her calm.
“I was cool…