Snapshot of Public Health

By Caroline Aaron

“Please, and excuse me,” he says. “She wants to know how long the chickens have been wrapped in shrouds.”

I live for these questions, because they slide me out of my linear rhetoric about the WIC Program and all its’ benefits, and compel my mind to race through the catalogues of everything I’ve ever known or heard or guessed at.

And in seconds, the way a receipt slides out of a cash machine to verify a transaction, I think: Thanksgiving, Jenny-O turkeys, white plastic, white wrap, a “white shroud”.

So I turn to the lovely gentleman from Somalia who has posed the question, and I say: “Do you mean when you go to the grocery store the chickens look as if they are being prepared for burial?”

He nods vigorously and says: “yes, YES!”

“In my county”, he says, “animals go from field to table. They do not linger a day in storage. We are afraid that this meat we buy is old and contaminated”. (His English is perfect, and my English is practice-perfect because my father was a professor of English literature).

The conversation is SO compelling that I want it to last for hours, but I realize our 30 minutes together will end soon. He has explained to me the rules of Halal – I understand the rules of Kosher – and I quickly remember that there is a woman on staff here at the Columbia City Public Health site who is also from Somalia and may have an answer for him.

I excuse myself to get her, and as she enters the room their mutual greeting has all the warmth of family reuniting with family. She explains to them that there is a farm in Darrington that follows the rules of Halal butchering, and she tells him also, much to his delight, that a member of their community drives there daily for meat, and would be glad to add them to his delivery route in Columbia City!

My client and this co-worker exchange telephone numbers: détente, solution and plans fill the air in the room that we are sharing as “international problem solvers”.

The Somali gentleman bows to me, I bow to him, and the children and I exchange sweet secret smiles of connection.

I am in Seattle playing ambassador to the world wearing the garments of a Public Health employee. THIS is joy!


Caroline AaronOver 30 years with Public Health, Caroline Fowler Aaron has collected thousands of “snapshot” moments with clients and co-workers doing workshops and community outreach. 

The  King County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program serves women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, infants and children. The WIC program also provides health screening, nutrition and health education, breastfeeding promotion and support, help getting other services and checks for nutritious foods.


2 thoughts on “Snapshot of Public Health

  1. Yes, this Public Health employee is an ambassador to the world! I love the respect for the Somalian gentleman’s concerns and Caroline Aaron’s understanding him and finding an answer to his question. How wonderful that such a sensitive person is working with people adjusting to, what must often be, a bewildering new life.

  2. Pingback: Snapshot of Public Health | Conflict Clinic

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