Life is strange and gloriously unpredictable. When I was a teenager, under the illusion that I had any control over the future, I thought I was on my way to studying for medical school and becoming a doctor. Life unfolded much differently. When I was seventeen, a catering truck hit me, and my bicycle, putting me in the hospital with a bruised brain. For a while I couldn’t read, and was excused from all my classes. Bored, I wandered to the nearby university and chose a classroom door at random. As I walked in, I saw the professor signing what looked like Van Gogh or Da Vinci paintings in the air. I fell in love with that visual language and its owners, Deaf people. Entering that door changed my life.
Decades later, another car accident left me bed-ridden or on crutches for six months. All my work and ties with Deaf people and their superior visual world were severed. I never have regained the access to the Deaf community I once had, and my signing has suffered as a result. I’ve had many days of wondering if I should keep trying, after many failed attempts.
Life’s river laughs in gurgles and rushing breath as it takes me through new rapids, around bends, and into new territory. Perhaps a river is the wrong metaphor as I was brought to the drought-ridden Mojave Desert at the Las Vegas Catholic Worker where I now live and work, serving food to the homeless. In the first five minutes of my first day on “the line,” I saw two Deaf men signing. Three days later, I met a third who taught me the sign for Guatemala. Now, I sign regularly and am teaching an American Sign Language class at the Catholic Worker where some of my students have served one Deaf man for over a decade, and never knew his name. Instead of a doctor, I became a bridge over a grand canyon between two cultures.
The lesson is obvious and simple, but never easy to remember: the future is none of my business. Deciding who I am or what I should do is not my business. I need to let the river steer and carry me. Life is always better when I float and enjoy the moment, instead of exhausting myself fighting the current.
Of course, present actions relate to the future, as someone just pointed out to me. We need to look before we cross a street. Yes, if I can do something now that relates to the future, that is my business. I write a rent check or schedule an appointment, It is when I can not act, then I need to let go of any illusion of control and not try to think my way into or out of a future situation. [Thank you for the message, anonymous one, pointing out the need to be more explicit about what I mean.]
Write me if you would like a gift of A Man Without Words or The Boy Who Cried Wolf or support materials for different kinds of learners, different learning objectives and various ages. Or, if you have any ideas, suggest them. Maybe you will be on one of the shores after the next bend.