The store was busy. I was in a hurry. When I hustled to the front to pay for the few items I had in my cart, I thought it was my lucky day! Many checkout lines were open and the lines were long, but line number 13 had only one customer. I quickly zipped my cart into position.
The clerk was happily smiling and scanning the purchases for the couple in front of me. Then I realized the struggle. The clerk, who was hearing impaired, was trying to communicate with the couple through sign language and loud hard to distinguish words. I watched as she demonstrated unlimited patience and began pointing to the screen on the register to communicate. The couple, relieved to be done with their transaction, hurried away. I realized why her checkout line was short. People were avoiding her.
I pushed my cart forward, unloaded my items, smiled and waved “Hi,” to the clerk. Her grin was huge, her happiness bold, as she waved back and said, “Hello” in her loud grating voice.
Knowing only a few words in sign language I awkwardly did my best to speak her language. Her motions asked if she could put my items together in one bag. I put my fists together, thumbs up, and pulled them away from each other in what I remembered to mean “apart.” She paused and looked at me with the excitement of a child. Her smile widened, her eyes connected with mine, and I saw her face grow into a sparkle. I was speaking “her” language.
We moved through the payment process with a few circles on my chest to communicate, “please” and as we finished, I put my hand to my lips and then brought its down palm up to her and said, “Thank You,” in both her language and mine.
Whose language are you missing?
How often do we miss the opportunity to really see someone, look in their eyes, connect with who they are inside and speak their language?
Do you get down on the floor and talk to a child at their eye level? Or do you talk down to them from a height they can only imagine being? Do you speak their language?
Do you take the time to talk to those in your life circle about what is important? Do you know what makes them sing in the sunshine and cry in the dark? Do you know their pain? Do you speak their language?
Do you show kindness to the elderly, homeless or marginalized people? Or do you sweep by them feeling like they are a nuisance? Do you speak their language?
Do you stop when you come home and acknowledge your dog’s tail wagging dance of love when they see you? Or do you brush right by them to a task you feel is more important? Do you speak their language?
It was my lucky day. By the clerk’s reaction to my clumsy effort at sign language, I believe she felt acknowledged, seen, heard, and validated. Isn’t that what we all want? What she didn’t know was that she had given me a gift. Because of her, I stopped long enough in my busy day to really look at another person, to notice our differences and yet stand on equal ground, to blend her form of communication with mine-- as she did her best to speak my language and I did my best to speak hers.
Pennie’s Life Lesson:
“Take time to acknowledge others. See them, hear them, and speak their language!”
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