A good deed to feel good about

Self-esteem is built by doing esteemable acts.

Author unknown

I’m writing about this not to brag but to share something positive. I flew out of town on business today, and I had an aisle seat I as usually do. When I sat down, the woman in the middle seat to my right was talking to her elderly mother in the middle seat across the aisle. So that she and her mother could keep each other company more easily – and honestly also so that she wouldn’t have to talk over me (my motives were not entirely altruistic) — I suggested that perhaps whoever had the aisle seat next to her mother could take my aisle seat, and I could take her middle seat so she could sit next to her mother. The man who originally had the aisle seat next to her mother was just as happy to take my aisle seat, so it all worked out. As I got up to leave the plane, she said “I wrote you a little thank-you note” and handed it to me. It read:

Thank you, Kindest of Strangers! My mom and I haven’t ventured out and about in more than a year. She was motivated to travel today to my daughters wedding. Thank you for caring about her comfort on this trip. All the best to you on your trip.

Safe travels,

Darla

It was a little thing for me, but it made a big difference to these two women on their very special day. I was taught in the Cub Scouts to do one good deed every day, or “Do a good turn daily” (Scouts slogan). I’ve tried to live up to this if not for others, then for myself— not to boast but just to feel okay about who I am. I’ll never forget what someone once told a group I was in: “Self-esteem is built by doing esteemable acts.” (The English major in me knows that esteemable should probably be estimable, but esteemable goes with esteem, so there you have it.) A person like me who has struggled with self-esteem his whole life understands that doing good deeds is like forgiving: it helps the giver as much as — or more than — it helps the recipient.

Again, I’m not bragging. I’m writing about this because doing this one little thing made more of a difference than I could have imagined to the people I showed kindness to, and because that kindness was repaid so graciously, and those thanks felt so good. So, next time you have a chance to do a good deed, do it! It might just make your day as much as it makes someone else’s.

Paul & Tina’s Signalong: Haters gonna hate

I am not as offended or concerned about Paul & Tina’s Signalong as some people are. I think exposure to ASL can be a good thing, regardless of who’s signing. Personal experience: the first time I was truly impressed with the beauty of ASL was at a monologue competition in 1985, when a hearing girl spoke and signed a monologue from Children of a Lesser God. I have no idea, in retrospect, how good she was at signing; all I remember is I thought it was beautiful. The fact that she spoke and signed at the same time made it accessible to me. I don’t think I would have gotten the same impression at the time if I had seen a Deaf woman delivering the same monologue, even if it were interpreted. I might have been more intimidated than entertained. I might have seen more differences than similarities. I might not have been ready for the culture shock.

If you read the comments on Paul & Tina’s Signalong Facebook page post about taking down their donation site, you’ll see a variety of views, both supportive and critical, both from hearing and Deaf people. I think this dialogue is a good thing. The comments from d/Deaf people were more supportive than those from interpreters, though, and I think that’s telling. If Deaf signers want to be offended by Paul & Tina, and educate them about their language and culture, that is their job. It’s not ASL/English interpreters’ job to be offended for Deaf people.

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish

Where you start isn’t necessarily where you end up. It’s not Paul & Tina’s job to be Deaf, and they’re not trying to be. They’re just being themselves and having fun with it. They’re not the be all, end all; they’re just doing their thing. Where people take it from there is their business. Time will tell whether future interpreters might have first thought ASL was fun by watching their videos. Eventually, we learn from Deaf people if we get that far. And if we don’t get that far, what’s the harm?