Words Have a Lot of Power

“How I make meaning in this world goes back to where I grew up.”

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Transcript for Words Have a Lot of Power

My belief is that words have a lot of power behind them, right, and so for my RAs, it was important for me to tell them that everything they do has a purpose behind it.  And so, they go—every night they have to walk the building to make sure it’s safe, and they have to talk to residents, and their main goal for their job is to build community.  So…why should we call it ‘rounds?’  Like, it sounds boring, it sounds awful, so we call it ‘community walks’ because that’s what you’re doing: you’re walking the building and you’re talking, that’s all you’re doing.  You’re not looking for trouble, you’re just looking to talk and so, they really have taken that, like, and ran with it, and they have all kinds of names for it now, so… ‘Friendship walks,’ ‘Fun walks,’ whatever they want.

How I make meaning in this world goes back to where I grew up with my mom being deaf and me being hearing.  And our communication, we — it had meaning.  I could sign something wrong and mean it the right way, but it could be wrong and come off awfully, so… Or vice versa, if I was just using my words with my mom and not signing, it might be harder to communicate the real purpose.

I think I remember like, late elementary school — so maybe fifth grade, fourth grade — is where I realized that my mom was deaf and that wasn’t normal, not everyone else had that experience.  And so, it was because we were learning about where to go if there was a fire in your house.  And so, my immediate reaction is, ‘My mom’s not going to hear the alarm, so this whole having a meeting place outside like, that’s not applicable to me,’ but I was too scared to ask the people presenting — teaching us — what I should do because I didn’t know and I knew they weren’t going to know.  And so, I waited till I got home and asked my mom what our plan was, and she said we had a system in place where the lights would flash, and she would know.  It’s a fire, she’s not, like, deaf to her senses.  She can feel still.

I think like, when all my friends and I always started listening to music, and all of my friends were like, ‘Oh, I have to listen to my mom’s music in the car’ or, ‘I can’t listen to music after a certain time’ — and maybe this is a negative thing, but I was like, ‘Well, I can.’  Because my mom doesn’t care what music I listen to.  She can’t hear it.  She doesn’t care what we listen to in the car because it doesn’t matter, so… I think in that moment it was cool to have a deaf mom.  But in a negative way at the same time.

I think there are other ways which we used our mom being deaf as a way to get out of things.  Or, it was easier when we were mad like, to walk away, and you could still say something, and it was behind her back, but you said it out loud.

Well one time she caught me because my mom can lip-read very well.  She’s very good at oral communication.  As part of her growing up, she had to become—she had to be able to speak, and she had to be able to read lips and communicate with hearing people.  So, one time she turned around and saw what I was saying, and that taught me not to do it again.  I didn’t really understand that that was how we communicated, and so it wasn’t fair to take advantage of it.

I think when she turned around and caught, like, me saying something, it made her question like, what communication do we not have, and why would I choose to take advantage of that moment instead of just explaining to her that I was mad.  And so, realizing that I should just be open and it didn’t matter.  It didn’t matter if I was mad or not, and to not take advantage of that communication between us.

  • Maria

    I liked the realization that there are advantages and disadvantages to having a different family set up than the ‘norm’. What was even more striking was the discussion on why you shouldn’t take advantage of these differences of communication especially in a negative way. It can be easy to use the challenges of these differences as a rationale for taking advantage of a situation, but there can be something empowering in an honest approach.