He was late.
I walked into the room and started speaking.
I cannot hear you, he signed, his hands dancing in the air.
“OH.” As someone who speaks multiple languages (and makes every effort to try to learn my patient’s language, even if only a few phrases), I suddenly felt helpless. His interpreter had left. Stuffing my hands into my pockets, I sifted for some paper but couldn’t find any.
I improvised and quickly tore off a paper towel from the dispenser and started scribbling. I’m going to check your temperature first.
OKAY, he wrote back.
Phew. He could read and write. We continued the remainder of the appointment this way, in silence. We used only the power of the written word and our body language to convey our messages.
By the end of our brief encounter, I could understand one simple, yet essential phrase.
He placed his right hand flat (with the palm) against his lips, then extended his arm forward, palm still facing upwards, his arm now at a 90 degree angle.
Thank you, he signed, with a sincerity in his eyes.
I hadn’t done anything special. I hadn’t gone out of my way.
Yet here he was, sharing his appreciation with his face and hands.
This simple gesture humbled me and really put things into perspective. In case he could read my lips, I said it aloud anyway.
“You’re welcome,” I smiled. (I’ll have to learn how to sign that, one day.)
~ ~ ~
This piece is a response to Grad-itude 101 Linkup: Expressing Appreciation. To be honest, it was really difficult for me to attempt this gratitude post because I’ve been focusing on a lot of negative lately. As I forced myself to write, I realized that I take for granted the gift of sound. Being able to hear someone express what’s important to them, to hear the sounds of the earth coming alive in the mornings, or to hear the drama, the intensity, the melancholy of a piano concierto… these are all such precious, God given gifts. I do not take it lightly.
At the same time, it reminded me of all the beautiful things that happen in the silence.
Or the beautiful things that happen that no one else can see.
“Who can know better than me
That your tenderness is like feathers?
Secret lying within my embrace
Only you can hear it
Is there still anyone who knows
That your smile is like a hug?
Really want to hide your goodness
Only I can see it.”
-You Can Hear It, by Jay Chou
gosh. this brings me back to college days when i used to learn sign language. i haven’t used it since and have forgotten almost all that i have learned, including signing my own name. BUT to sign ‘thank you’ i still remember. it’s one of the easiest things from all words to sign.
you learned sign language? that is AWESOME. i wish i had learned back in the day, it’d be so useful!