Translators at the United Nations

Translators at the United Nations

How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? - Acts 2:8

When I was a kid, you used to hear a lot more about the United Nations than we seem to now. I remember seeing them at work on TV in their big auditorium in NYC - delegates from all over the world with the name of their country displayed in front of each, everyone wearing headphones and listening to whoever was speaking in their own native language. I used to be fascinated about how this amazing thing could happen. Somewhere in a back room were a whole bunch of translators listening to the speaker over their own headphones and reading their prepared script, and then translating the words into a microphone that fed the translation into their delegate’s ears.

I used to think it would be a ton of fun to be a translator at the UN. I would think about how great it would be to meet people from all over the world and to be a part of connecting them to each other so they could better understand each other. But then I learned how hard it is to become really fluent in a foreign language, and that dream passed me by.

But I look back in wonder at the huge amounts of determination, energy and resources it took to create the United Nations. Imagine just getting everyone to agree to do it - let alone organizing regular meetings, getting all those delegates to synch their schedules and travel from all over the world, hiring those many translators, and just sticking with the resolve it must take to try to understand each other despite so many differing languages and cultures. We seem to be making less and less of that kind of effort in the world community these days. Instead of striving to understand and be understood, we seem to just want to be right, and we don’t seem to care much at all about what others think.

Even though our world is chaotic and divided, our faith asserts that in Christ, there is good news at work always, even when the bad news steals all the headlines, and that as faithful people, we can dial our headphones to hear that good news and then translate it for others with the help of the Holy Spirit. In this way, maybe I ended up being a translator anyway - and so did you.

May God’s Holy Spirit make herself known anew among us this Pentecost Sunday at St. James and throughout the world. We could all use a little more understanding these days.

This Sunday’s readings are HERE