" I realized this would be a learning experience for the both of us."
For a few weeks, B had been asking for more and more personal hygiene items. Her parents would not spend any money on things she needed, including feminine hygiene products, soap, and shampoo. Luckily, MRS has a storage space full of generous donations, and I was able to provide her with everything she needed. However, it was clear that the clothes she was wearing smelled, and B had never learned how to wash her clothes.
So, one Friday, B and I loaded four large garbage bags of dirty laundry into my car and headed to the laundromat. We had to carry the bags together, they were so full of dirty clothes. As we arrived, I realized this would be a learning experience for the both of us. In my entire life, I had never set foot into a laundromat. I had always been privileged to live in a home that had my own washer and dryer, a comfort a lot of people have not experienced. But, I still had an advantage. I had the English skills necessary to ask the attendant for help, so we could choose the proper sized machines and cycles.
B loaded the clothes into the machines, and I helped her measure out the right amounts of detergent. We sat down to wait, but I had come prepared with books borrowed from her English teacher to keep us busy. We worked on her reading skills, and every small progress made was a win. For students who have not attended school prior to arriving in the US, learning to read and write a foreign language is an extreme challenge. However, when B is given individual attention and praise, she works very hard. We stumbled through a book about Ruby Bridges together, and at the end, B said: “She is like me. I came to the US and it was hard, and not everyone liked me.”
We folded clean laundry for what seemed like hours, and carried it all back up the stairs to her home. It was a hard day for both of us, challenging in different aspects. But, we both left feeling successful. B has clean clothes, and was able to relate her experience to someone else she read about in a book. We will continue to read together, and hopefully, she can walk into the laundromat alone next time, confident and able to take care of this task independently.