November has been called Gratitude Month. Happy Thanksgiving. Everyday.
Gratitude is my magic carpet to the present tense, to living this moment. I have discovered that I can’t feel gratitude and fear at the same time. Gratitude has, thus, served as good medicine.
Currently my moments are in Worcester, Massachusetts, a stay before traveling to a conference in Syracuse, NY. I’m noticing some differences between eastern and western Americans. For starters, our vowels and “r” sound different. Assumptions about personal space, comfortable social space, and acceptable topics among strangers are different. Yesterday, stories about a severe snow storm were shared for a long time, and I had nothing to contribute after living without snow for most of my life.
I am grateful to be able to meet people who are different from me, even if it takes me some time to understand a new word, a new pronunciation, a new idea or a new reference. I would never know who I am, if I never met another. How do I know what an American is, if I never visit another country or meet someone from somewhere else? I would have never called myself a western American had I not met eastern Americans. Every time I take time to listen to another or observe a new person, I learn something about myself. I am and cannot be Susan without other humans.
And, as I listen and observe, I see past the differences. We are always more alike than different. As I listened to all the stories of how the severe snow storm affected lives and communities, I heard almost identical accounts of experiences I have had in disasters. Instead of snow storms, I lived through the affects of earthquakes. Regardless of the natural disaster, the community response, the individual difficulties and mutual concern, help and heroism was the same.
Regardless of the dialect or language, the stories are the same kind of expressions, arising from the same or similar human needs. One of the greatest and most common need being the need to share, especially through telling our stories. I hope to hear, see (through American Sign Language) and share many stories next week at a conference for professionals and parents struggling to educate and communicate with their d/Deaf and hard of hearing children. We are not seeking specific knowledge and tools as much as the sharing. If that were not true, there would be no face-face conferences. We could simply send information from one machine to another’s machine.
We need stories and to share our stories. Experience, it is said, is the best teacher. Very probably it is the ONLY teacher. Men did not stop smoking regardless of the facts, until the percentage of dying and deaf men was high enough that men saw it in an uncle or brother or friend. Women’s smoking still increased until….. We have to experience to learn or experience vicariously through someone close, through his or her story. We go to conferences to confer, to bear with someone through his or her story.
We are our stories, and I am grateful for yours. Your story shows me more of me, and how I am connected to you, and all of life.
The stories I can share – The Boy Who Cried Wolf – accessible through many languages – and A Man Without Words, the book or the short documentary on a DVD, are yours. Write me and send me your address and I will send them to you.
And, since you are writing me, be sure to tell me a story about yourself.