“Don’t take notes so much when you talk to them,” said Carmen to me in Spanish as I walked back to the van.
“But if I don’t take notes,” I said, “I won’t remember.”
“It’s just too official looking, like a census. It gives the wrong idea mi hijo.”
Carmen was my supervisor at South Carolina Primary Health Care. She was a native of Honduras and liked to call me “mi hijo,” meaning “my son.”
“Take notes after you talk to them, if you need to, but don’t just write things down while they’re talking,” she said.
It was a reminder for me. I was not here to take as many notes as possible and write an amazing story to rival John Steinbeck. I was here to be helpful.
Student Action with Farmworkers put me here with South Carolina Primary Health Care’s Migrant Health Program to register as many patients as possible and drive them to appointments and pharmacies. We registered documented, undocumented, and guest workers alike. Our program hardly covered anything beyond checkups. Farm managers never had to pay insurance, and our program was just there to fill the gap.
If I learned anything from that summer, I learned that I am not an expert and should never claim to be one. Still, I can say what I saw. I saw entire worlds in South Carolina that I barely knew existed.