Freezing rain was falling as Elena and her compañera walked single-file along a narrow strip of clear sidewalk, piles of ice to the left and roaring traffic to the right. They had just left the DMV, where Elena had successfully arranged an appointment to test for the Temporary Visitor Driver’s License. For Elena, this driver’s license meant she would be able to drive her 14-year-old daughter to chemotherapy without being terrified of getting pulled over and detained. Her daughter Sara had been diagnosed with leukemia right before Christmas.
As they walked through the freezing rain and ice, Elena talked about her family, who was still reeling from the cancer diagnosis. She talked about how difficult it was for her, and how scared she was all the time. She said, “My brother asked me, ‘why do you want me to go with you to your test? It’s not like I can help you take it.’ I said, ‘you don’t understand. It helps just to have someone there with me, waiting for me when I come out of the testing room. It makes me feel supported. Like in the DMV,” she said to the companera, “I felt safer with you being there.” What she wanted was not someone to do her work for her, but to walk with her on a difficult journey. That is what accompaniment is about.