Note From Uncle Dale: Because You Have Been Given Much You Too Must Give.

The title of this Note actually comes from a song I learned in church as a child.

Now, if you are concerned that I’m going to get all religiony or preachy with you, don’t worry. The religious song is just the framework, the structure upon which I can hang my point. As for preachy?

Well, preachy is a matter of personal interpretation.

One persons preachy is another persons useful advice (I think it depends on how the “advice” pokes your heart and mind. If it assures you, that’s one thing, but if hurts a bit or makes you think of a habit you already knew you needed to change, that is what most people call preachy).

Before you give into the temptation to think the title of this Note means I will be telling you that you need to volunteer more, of course you do; but that’s not exactly my point.

The first verse of the song talks not about giving as in giving away, but about giving as defined as sharing:

My glowing fire, my loaf of bread, my roof’s safe shelter overhead that he too may be comforted…

Share.

Share what you have been given. And make no mistake, you have been given much.

Sometime, somewhere, someone pulled you aside and said, “I have something I can teach you that will make your journey smoother than mine, let me share it with you. It will not make everything easy for you, but if you let me share it with you it will make the path easier for you than it was for me.”

That mentor, hearing or Deaf, was given much and so they gave. Because they gave to you, you now have something to give.

It takes nothing away from you to help another interpreter get better at what they do. Knowledge, wisdom and skill are not finite resources. When you give of your time, energy and experience to lift another it improves the profession as a whole and opens doors for the Deaf community.

In the end sharing always makes you better at what you do. You never really have a skill, it is never locked down for you, until you teach it to another person.

Develop a true desire for the next generation of interpreters to be better, more skilled, more able than you ever hoped to be, ever dreamed of being, and you will achieve more than you can imagine in your own time.

You may think, “but I am just getting the hang of this myself…”.

You have something to offer even if you think you don’t.

I make a joke when I teach, “what is the difference between a teacher and a student?”

One chapter.

You have something to offer. Even if it seems like a little, it means a lot.

You have been given much and so you have something to share.

…I will give love to those in need, I’ll show that love by word and deed, thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

Give back to the community that has given you so much. Give back in large and small ways. Give back in word and deed.

“Now,” you think, “now he is talking about volunteering.” Well of course you should volunteer. But that is still not exactly what I mean.

Think about where your skills and abilities are needed most and then take them there.

I think reader (and now friend) Xenia Fretter said it best. “Sometimes,” she said, “we should choose to take the 2 hour appointment where our skills are needed over the all-day appointment, that pays better, but doesn’t require any specific skill or experience.”

Because we have been given much, we should consider where we are needed most, not just what pays the most.

We must seek for a Deaf-heart. If you know the term but don’t know exactly what it means then that is your next mission. Learn its meaning, and then live it each hour of each day.

…because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care…

Each of us, at one time or another, has been sheltered and fed by the good care of another.

I will never forget, so many years ago, when I showed up at an appointment and realized very quickly that I was in over my head.

Then my team showed up.

I took a risk and shared my fears with this wonderful, kind, experienced interpreter. She looked at me and asked, “why do you think you’re not ready for this? If you think you don’t know enough ‘Signs,’ you do. It’s not a vocabulary test. If you think you don’t have the skills, you do. I’ve seen your work. I asked for you as my team. What you don’t have yet is the experience. You get that today. So, take a breath and do your best work. I’m not going to let you fall on your face. That would not be fair to the Client or to you.”

At that moment she literally took ahold of my chin and gently turned my face and looked me in the eyes. “You go and do your best work. Not good work or great work. Your best work. Work harder than you have ever worked. I will take care of the rest.”

I ran into this great interpreter a few months ago at a conference and asked her if she remembered that day. She laughed and said, “I gave that speech to you? You? I’ll take your word for it because I gave it a lot, but I don’t remember giving it to you” (then she laughed and said, “when you use this for your blog don’t mention my name, it will ruin my reputation as a mean ol’ lady.”

You’re secret is safe. Mean mean mean that’s what you are. Grin).

I have been sheltered and fed by the good care of so many others. In that way I have been given much so I too must give.

(Ok I totally have to digress here. A while ago I was in court as the attorney and in walked the interpreter; one of my former students. She stopped and this look of fear crossed her face. I greeted her and she was obviously nervous. I pulled her aside and asked if she was ok. She stammered our that she did not expect it to be me she was interpreting for. I gave her a version of the speech above tailored to her current situation.

I ended by reminding her that she was not interpreting for witness testimony, the Client was in the gallery watching me argue a motion on their case and I knew she had the skills to do this BECAUSE I TAUGHT HER TO DO IT!

She did a fantastic job.

When the hearing was over I talked with my Client for a minute and looked around but the interpreter was gone. I walked into the hallway found her sitting on a bench in a secluded corner near the restrooms, crying.

I sat down and put my arm around her and said, “you were fantastic! I’m so proud of your work.”

She looked up at me and said, “you were so mean! I’ve never heard you speak to people like that. It was so mean!”

Um. You can’t prepare them for everything I guess. Even at the time I didn’t remember the hearing being particularly contentious, but Lawyer Uncle Dale is apparently different from Professor Uncle Dale.)

Because I have been given much, I too must give. Thank you for reading this Note. That simple act, reading my thoughts, is helping me to give.

That is my last point.

Part of giving is receiving. People can’t get the benefit of giving if we are not willing to receive.

Let people serve you.

For many of us that is the most difficult thing I ask in this Note. Let others grow through their service to you.

Let your peers lift you up and support you along the way. If you do, you are really helping them as well.

We need each other. Now more than any time in my memory we need one another.

We need to serve and accept service. If the horrors of the recent months of my life taught me anything, they taught me that point over and over. Sometimes the best service we can give is to accept service from others.

We must give. We must give if for no other reason than to show thankfulness for all that we have been given.

And make no mistake. Each of us, every one, has been given much.

Rules for Media Interviews

Thank you Timpfest and the Deseret News.

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900030152/asl-interpreters-have-to-think-fast-on-their-feet-with-their-hands-at-utahs-timpanogos-storytelling-fest.html

Now…

years ago I was interviewed by The Today Show. A very wise attorney told me, “prepare your talking points before you start. Never rely on the interviewer to give them to you.”

Check.

“The Media never prints what you mean, only what you say.”

Yep!

“No matter how much you enjoy the story (article) someone somewhere will be offended by it.”

With those bits of wisdom in mind:

1. My wife is way ahead of you in pointing out that the article is kinda “The Uncle Dale Show!” It makes me laugh that they found the video of my Biggest Liar win and linked it (that is Chip interpreting);

2. They wanted to do an article about the interpreters, I suggested they interview a person who is Deaf for a cultural perspective (love Kristi!! She is fantastic!) and they still quoted me on Deaf culture (the quote is actually something I told the writer as an idea of the kinds of things to ask Kristi! Oh well);

3) That last paragraph? I was specifically discussing storytellers who use colloquial language (Read it again with that caveat in mind); and,

4) It’s a fun article, it won’t change the world but it may make it more fun.

In the end. I needed a little fun right now. Hope it makes you smile too.

Sunday Rule: Look for the Helpers

Interpreters often work with Clients who are having the worst moment of their lives. If we are not careful we can start to believe that the world is an unhappy, unkind place.

As you likely know I have had a very hard summer. It is not an exaggeration to say it has been the worst time of my life. But, in the middle of all this turmoil I made a strange discovery-the world is a good and kind place because it is filled with good and kind people.

I know this because so many of these good and kind people showed up on my door, sent me letters, emails and text messages, offered to pray for my family, brought food, took my children into their homes and to amusement parks and just loved us.

One wonderful woman was afraid my youngest son’s birthday would get lost in noise and confusion, so she scooped him up and held a birthday party for him. She invited his friends and took them all to a movie and dinner complete with presents and cake. We didn’t ask. She just saw our need and filled it.

Another friend of my wife showed up at our house every day, for days and days. She would let herself in and clean something then leave. Later in the day she would let herself in do a load of laundry then leave. Later she would show up look at all the food people had delivered and prepare it into a meal, put a plate of food in front of each member of my family and whomever was visiting. Then she would clean something until she could collect the dishes, wash them, and leave. Some nights she made sure my children had bathed and brushed their teeth. Other times she just sat and listened and if I said “I need a Diet Coke” one would magically appear. Again she did not wait for my wife or I to think of a job for her to do (if she had asked “can I mop your floor,” my wife would have been horrified that there were people in the house and her floor was dirty, so she just did it) she did it. She quietly, daily gave us her love.

Friends drove from California, and others flew in from Minnesota literally to listen to us and cry with us. My best friend from high-school who has lived in the Middle East for many years and who I have not seen for 15 years walked into my living room, because he needed to see my face (and, as it turns out, I needed to see his).

A woman from Australia who we have never met, but my wife knows from an online book club, read my Letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda and made it her personal mission to get that letter in front of Mr. Miranda. We found out that is how it got into his hands. She loved and served us from the other side of the world.

The Young Women’s advisor from our church was doing her dishes and suddenly felt the impression that she should come to our house and ask my daughter to go for a walk. They talked about cats for an hour. My daughter knew that she was loved.

On the day it happened a referral agency with which I work had warm chocolate chip cookies delivered to our home. A week or so later another batch of warm cookies arrived because “grief comes in waves and so should cookies.”

My wife is a costume designer for a theatre. At 11:00 pm on a Thursday evening there was a knock on our door and this happened:

There can be no farewells, we will meet where the weary find peace.

I can’t recall a sky so clear, the heavens seem and inch away, and not unfriendly after all.

If life was ever quite this sweet…

(Spoken) It is a far far better rest I go to than I have ever known)

I can’t recall.

This is from the musical of A Tale of Two Cities. The singers are the actors that she costumed for this musical last year. Some of these people drove in from out of state to be in our driveway.

These are just a few stories of good people in this world doing good things because they felt the pull of love. There are so many more.

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

Like I said at the beginning, as interpreters we tend to see a great deal of struggle and sorrow on the job and it would be, scratch that, it is easy to start to see only the pain and anger in this world.

But that is not all there is. There is so much good.

I have said this in the Rules before now, but I think it’s important to say it over and over so I don’t forget, that I believe when we do our job and do it well, even in the middle of the worst moment of a Client’s life we are a force for good. We are one of those “helpers” Mr. Rogers was talking about. We need do nothing more than our job to foster the good in the world.

That is my Sunday Rule. See the good in the world and be the good in the world.

Thank You, and An Open Letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda

People keep coming to my door and telling me, “I don’t know what to say.” That is because there are no words. There is only love. It is only you that we needed. We needed you, and here you are.

I cannot express how completely my family and I have felt your love. Emails, texts, cards, calls, flowers, visits and food (so much food). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So many people have shared with me their own stories of grief. I could never have anticipated how deeply comforting it is to hear these stories and to realize the teller is still breathing in and out, getting out of bed, going to work and the store each day. It will be possible to do the mundane and everyday tasks of life, I know that because others who have walked where I am walking are doing it. They told me their stories and so I know it’s possible.

I know I am just at the door of grieving and that it will sneak up on me in months and years ahead and take me out at the knees when I least expect it. But I also know I have a community around me ready to raise me up when I stumble.

Now.

I promise I will return this blog to the purpose for which it was intended, but you may have noticed I write when I am sad or angry or confused or happy or… you get it.

I wrote the following letter a couple of days after my son died and I have been asked to share it here. At the time I was sitting in the darkness and just felt compelled to write. After I sent it to Mr. Miranda’s Facebook page I wondered why I did it. Looking back I remember an episode of M*A*S*H where Dr. Sidney Freedman is writing letters to Sigmund Freud to help himself to understand his own feelings.

I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m a writer and a sometime actor. I don’t write to Dr. Freud. It appears I write to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Dear Mr. Miranda,

I find myself writing to you in this strange public forum because it is the only place I can imagine right now to reach out to you. I could not find an address to send a letter or email.

I have no actual expectation that you will ever read these words, but, gratitude, like forgiveness, is much more for the giver than the receiver. Even if this never reaches you it is still vital for me to say it.

My 13-year-old daughter is a fan of your work, specifically Hamilton, to a point that can only be adequately described as “with the love and obsession possessed by a 13-year-old girl for a piece of art that speaks to her soul.” Thus I have had the opportunity to not only see your masterwork live when it toured through Salt Lake City, but before and after that inspiring performance to hear the soundtrack on an almost daily loop playing in my home and car.

I therefore became a fan as well.

I am compelled now to write you, to thank you for all your work, but specifically for the song It’s Quiet Uptown. That song has played, not in my home or car, but in my head since Tuesday of this week when my eldest son took his own life.

This was not an act which followed a long struggle with depression or crippling mental illness. It happened in a moment when all the ingredients for such a terrible event were present: anger, an argument and a gun. In a moment that he could not take back he let those three elements take him away from his wife, family, brothers, sister and his mother and I.

I was not there when it happened but that does not prevent me from screaming into the past and begging him to stop and breathe and think for just one more moment. That breath and thought will never happen and all I am left with when the screaming grief and tears of his mother and siblings and I fade, is quiet. Quiet in desperate search of peace.

Though it is quiet outside, in my mind I still beg to hold him. I beg to trade his life for mine. But I am left in the end with quiet-where I try to push away the unimaginable. Where I try to live with the unimaginable.

I am searching Mr. Miranda. Next to me is my wife, we are together walking through the unimaginable.

My gratitude to you is for giving me the words, your words, the ones you gave to Alexander Hamilton and to Eliza Hamilton, that you unknowingly gave to my wife and I as well. Those same words you gave to all who are pushing through the unimaginable.

Now I must find my quiet place, my uptown, where I can do the unimaginable and find that grace too powerful to name.

I know it’s there. Because you told a tale that is rooted in truth. Somewhere there is peace. Somewhere there is grace. But right now it seems unimaginable.

I know it is not impossible. I feel the grace of eternity fighting to find a place in my heart. The faith I learned in church from my childhood tells me there is a place of peace beyond this, though I can’t see it now.

The lyrics that, I can tell you, were whispered into your heart by a loving father in heaven, speak to so many people, too many people, who must find a quiet place to look into the void and learn to live with the unimaginable.

Thank you for listening to that still small voice Mr. Miranda. Thank you for following where that voice inside led you. Thank you for giving those words to all of us pushing through the unimaginable. I know it can’t just be me that needs them.

I felt such a great need to tell you that, to express my thanks knowing that you may never hear it. That you may not know I wrote this does not matter when it comes to gratitude. Gratitude must be expressed.

Our great love to you,

Dale H Boam and family

(Thank you for reading this. I’ll get back to the whole interpreting thing now.)

Rule for a June Sunday Morning: Sometimes You Have To.

Some days you feel the need to be somewhere that renews your soul. This is Twin Lakes. It may not be your place but it’s one of mine.

Find your place.

Sometimes you just have to.