Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A New Friend

Later this year, my dear friend and mentor, Rick Northen, and I will journey to the East Coast to spend some time in Cooperstown, New York at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, followed by a couple of Rangers' games in New York and Baltimore.

Two weeks ago, Rick emailed me from Cambodia, wanting to know how the Rangers were looking (he and Gail are in transit, due to arrive at D-FW on Thursday night so they can catch the Friday Rangers/Astros Lone Star series opener with their kids). In all honesty, at that time, I told him the Rangers weren't worth seeing.

What a difference two weeks can make.

Thanks to Tuesday evening's 5-2 win over the hapless Mariners, the Rangers have now done something the franchise hasn't done since 1999 -- win six consecutive series. They've now won 11 of the last 14, 7 of their last 8, and have taken back-to-back-to-back series' from the Mariners and the Athletics.

It is frustrating to think what would've been with Chris Young, Edinson Volquez, Armando Galarraga and John Danks in the rotation with some combination of Carlos Pena, Mark Teixeira, and Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup.

But who's complaining? The beloved Rangers are now just one under and 3 1/2 back!


On Tuesday morning, I had breakfast with Derek. Derek is a long-time Internet friend, thanks to our shared passion for all things Arkansas Razorback. Derek and I became acquainted through since Derek was born a Fresnan, raised in Waldron, Arkansas, and now lives in Jackson, Tennessee.

What made breakfast with Derek especially engaging, and challenging, is the fact that Derek is deaf. A disease producing tumors attacked Derek's body beginning in 1998. The first tumor resulted in total hearing loss in one ear. In 2004, tumors attacked the other ear, rendering Derek completely deaf. Consequently, Derek returns to the Valley annually for visits with his doctor/surgeon.

So, over breakfast at B.J.'s Kountry Kitchen, I tried out my rudimentary ASL skills while Derek honed his burgeoning lip reading skills. It wasn't smooth, but the aim of our meeting was achieved. We shared. We laughed. We joked. And we both left knowing we'd each made a new friend.

Megan Clanton just happened to blog on Monday about her insights into communication via her own personal experiences with the Deaf community and ASL. It is a wise insight, in a blog entry entitled "Listening to Silence," that captured the essence of my breakfast with Derek.

"The value of words never appeared so significant to me until the day I found myself sitting in a small pizza shop with over thirty people engaged in rapid dialogue, and I remained clueless as to the content of the conversations. The unusual quietness of the room paradoxed the vivacious atmosphere, and my sister, father and I just looked at one another. Somewhere in the flurry of gestures was my mother, the only one of the four of us who knows sign language, the reason we were at a dinner for the deaf.

Through the deaf, I have learned more about language, about words, than any upper-level English class could teach me. Words are not simply audible syllables of the voice; words live, move and, worked in a precise way, flow together to convey the entirety of human experience. The spirit behind and embodied in communication has never been as apparent to me as in sign language. Like many languages, a slight shift changes a word. With the movement of fingers “shine” becomes “shimmer.” With the direction of the palms “darkness” becomes “fear.” Signs such as “strength” and “power” are interchangeable in dialogue. ASL is a language where every word displays its life: “forever” and “heaven” carry themselves to eternity; “friends” connect as its meaning implies.

The last several years of watching the fluent, graceful conversations between the signers and my own rudimentary attempts at the language taught me to know and appreciate communication as more than auditory expressions. Simple phrases like “God is love” and “Lord of my life” demand attention in ASL when they are often overlooked or taken for granted in English. Each word is not merely said, it must be felt as it is carried out to completeness.

I once thought that if I lost my voice, I would lose my identity. I would know myself, but how could anyone else? Through talking to those who cannot hear and listening to those who do not speak, I discovered the power of words beyond the limited capacities of the auditory language both to depict who I am and how I see the world surrounding me. Perhaps it would not be too terrible to lose my voice someday. Rather than losing one language, I would gain another—and a deeper understanding of communication as something between hearts, not ears."