On the Beat of Truth: A Hearing Daughter’s Stories of Her Black Deaf Parents by Maxine Childress Brown

Childress Brown chooses anecdotes that allow the reader to see how being black, Deaf, poor, educated, and living before the Civil Rights Movement are all intersections where her parents exist.

— thoughts by Melanie Page, originally published at Grab the Lapels

The Hearing Eye by Catherine Coppes

“But the real issue, which Coppes describes both fairly and sternly, is how to train everyone else to communicate. Basically, communicating with a hard-of-hearing person means following polite rules, but because we love our family, know our co-workers, and trust out friends, they sometimes lapse into more casual conversation mode.”— thoughts by Melanie Page, originally published at Grab the Lapels

“What Do You Do?”

At some point in recent memory, I’d read that it is a fairly American (U.S.) tendency to ask someone 1) their name and 2) what they do. Are we truly so interested in the work of someone we just met? If their job is in a field we do not understand or don’t have an interest in, we may even tune out their answer or choose not to ask clarifying questions to better understand this new person.

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In the piece that I’d read, the suggestion was instead of asking someone, “What do you do?” ask them, “What do you enjoy?” Part of the problem is that we ask about employment so we can judge other people, even subconsciously. How do you feel about a stay-at-home dad? An adult fast food employee? A person unemployed who isn’t even looking for work? A part-time lifeguard in their thirties? Someone who makes money on the side selling Avon or Pampered Chef, or drives an Uber or Lyft? Let’s face it: we all have feelings about jobs and make judgments about people based on what they do. We’re basically checking, “Do you meaningfully contribute to the economy?”

For the first time last night, I asked a new person who joined my meditation class 1) his name and 2) what he enjoys. He was utterly flabbergasted. He said he’d just moved from Oregon to Indiana a month ago, but he didn’t know what he enjoys. He said, “I had the What do you do? answer loaded and ready to go.” I explained why I did not ask what he does, and eventually, he came to answer gardening, short horror fiction, and breweries.

Pretty soon, we were comparing horror movies we’d seen, which were our favorites, etc. and the conversation kept unfolding in a natural way! If I had asked, “What do you do?” and he said (which I learned later) that he’s a stay-at-home dad of four children ages two to nine, I wouldn’t have had anything else to say. I have no children. I could have responded, “Cool, my brother has four kids, too.” But then where would we go from there?

In the future, when you meet someone new, consider asking them what they enjoy instead of what they do.

The Science of Hope

Recently, I was informed I need to meditate, to achieve a sense of calm I am not maintaining on my own. Directed to the podcast Ten Percent Happier, I scrolled through the archives and found topics that appealed to me. One was “The Science of Hope” with Dr. Jacqueline Mattis. For me, hope has that woo woo feeling behind it, as if we’re all supposed to walk dreamily into the future, ignoring all the present adversities (like a pandemic, an insurrection on the country’s capitol, inflation, and possible WWIII).

Yet Dr. Mattis, a psychologist and professor, shares data-driven information about hope that can appeal to anyone, including the extremely poor and vulnerable populations facing adversity, and those who have privilege. Here are some notes I wrote while listening:

  • Hope is optimism with a plan.
  • Set a goal and figure out how to achieve it.
  • Hope is a bridge to get you through, not mindless wishful thinking.
  • Through bad things, along the way we are helped by others: teachers, friends, family, mentors, even strangers.
  • It’s a fantasy that we can control the world we live in.
  • Having a support system that challenges naysayers is good and a form of hope.
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  • In what ways is uncertainty good? How does it serve you? Pivot to a story you tell yourself that includes hope. Look at the data (stories) of your overall life, not just certain moments. Is the actual story that you can do [challenging thing] because you have many examples in your life as evidence?
  • People say, “Don’t quit your day job,” which makes you feel small in your creative endeavors. What if you shift your hope to doing that endeavor for yourself, or a small group of people, rather than a big audience? This is a form of hope.
  • Seek community! Some communities I have joined are my blog, volunteering at hospice, an online horror movie club, meeting and befriending two retired neighbors, my book club, a sign language group, and volunteering at the library.
  • Hope is not all fantasy and deluded people. It’s data driven. Optimists look at the same data as pessimists, but the extract different meaning depending on what they’re looking for. In one study, people were shown a picture of a cancerous lesion on the skin. Optimists tended to look at the skin around the cancer; pessimists focused on the cancer.
  • How has the story of hopelessness you’ve told yourself served you? If your story draws people to you to help you, it may serve you. But can you seek help without ditching hope?

Volunteering

Last Friday was my first day volunteering at my local Friends of the Library book sale. The manager of the book sale is a lovely woman with experience working in community-based organizations. As a book lover myself, I was familiar with where everything is in the book sale because I’ve shopped there before! In fact, I have hundreds of unread books that I’m currently working through so I can reduce that TBR (To Be Read) pile.

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What did I do while volunteering? Customers would put their books on the table, and I would tally how many of each type/cost they picked out. This makes it faster for the cashier. Many people are repeat customers, so they even put the books in piles for me. They know the drill!

When I worked at a library, I was not able to talk too much about books with patrons due to privacy issues around reading. Yet, nothing was said about the book sale! I was happy to tell customers which books looked cool and which I had read myself. We are community members, not employee/customer.

So, what does volunteering do for you? In almost every case, the people for whom you are volunteering are so ridiculously grateful you are there. Honestly, it’s a good feeling to be wanted and needed, and I believe if you are struggling with challenging emotions around belonging, loneliness, self-confidence, and/or worth, volunteering is a way to remind yourself that you do matter. Of course, there are the more practical benefits, such as making friends, helping your community, and getting to know people who are happy to write you a letter of recommendation.

Here are some types of volunteering I’ve done in the past:

  • Theater usher
  • Filling out award certificates with my calligraphy skills
  • Theater stage manager
  • Helping at the cookie table during a downtown Christmas event
  • Reading to a person with dementia
  • Driving a college men’s soccer team to their tournament

Have you volunteered? What was it like, and how did you feel about it?