Last Sunday at church, Sue (the Pastor of the faith community I belong to) did something really cool for Pentecost. (In most Christian religions, Pentecost commemorates the descent of The Holy Spirit. In Judaism it’s celebrated as the feast of Shavuot; the giving of The Law on Sinai.) Sue was reading verses from The Bible, in English, and asked others in the gathering to read the same verses simultaneously, in different languages. There were people reading in Arabic, Italian, French, Greek and Spanish.
It was profound and moving, and being part of that experience started me thinking about the impact of language. It also reminded me of something that happened in September, at the start of the new school year.
My grandson Ethan is in first grade. He has an amazing teacher. I believe she genuinely loves what she does. Ethan thinks first grade is great and, as we know, so much of how a child experiences school has to do with the teacher. In the beginning of the school year, Ms. Tomasello asked if any of the children spoke a second language. A few children raised their hands and shared what their second language is. When she got to Ethan (who also had his hand raised) he said, “I speak Duck”. She heard that, as “Dutch” but Ethan corrected her and said “no, I speak Duck” and proceeded to quack. (“Duck” is a very difficult, quacking language that I’m proud to say I taught him. It’s something my Dad taught me as a child.) Of course, Ethan knew that wasn’t what his teacher meant, but he got the laugh! Ms. Tomasello calls him “the cruise director” because he’s funny, he “holds court”, greets the other children at the door and welcomes them to class. How wonderful is that?
There are thousands of different languages spoken by us humans. We talk about “language barriers” when discussing how communication is stymied when we can’t understand what another person is saying. The way we communicate, however, is not only affected by the language we use when we’re speaking. It has as much to do with an unspoken language: the WAY we live.
I know someone who speaks the language of “glass half empty”. No matter what’s going on in her life, it’s terrible; and no one else could EVER possibly understand how tough she has it.
I know someone who speaks the language of “anger”. LIFE has wronged him and he has no desire to change the way he views the world.
I knew someone who spoke the language of ”jealously”. She didn’t want others to have, achieve or enjoy anything she didn’t, which made her world pretty small.
I know someone who speaks the language of “superiority”. She believes that anyone “not like her” is inferior and worthless.
I knew someone who spoke the language of “control”. His personal power came from “putting people in their places” and he used his position to do that as often as possible.
I know someone who speaks the language of “arrogance”. Her self-importance leaves little room for anyone else to matter.
How sad to speak a “language” that has the opposite effect of making others feel valued and loved. How sad to walk through life without peace. How sad to be so wrapped up in the negative that there’s no room for change.
I know how blessed I am to be surrounding by people whose languages are uplifting and supportive.
I have friend who speaks the language of “compassion”. Not only is she on a “care team”, she’s an amazing listener, and always has the right thing to say to someone who is hurting.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “sacred growth”. He seeks to grow in faith and peace everyday.
My daughter, Sara, speaks the language of “nurturing”. Her care, love and concern for her children (and for others who cross her path) is evident in the way she teaches them, honors them, and walks through each day with them.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “joy”. Not only will she never give up on you, she has an infectious laugh and shares that with whomever she’s with.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “wisdom”. He is in his nineties and shares his breadth of knowledge about life and faith in a way that honors wherever you are in your life.
My daughter, Erin, speaks the language of “generosity”. She picks up on the little things you say (or that she notices) and shares what she has without any fanfare or need for a “flowery thank you”.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “justice”. She works tirelessly to abolish sex trafficking (a problem that is a LOT more prevalent, here in our country, than we want to acknowledge) and to change the world.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “thoughtfulness”. He is my “big brother”, willing to do whatever it takes (even if it means climbing up on the roof to shoot a photo) to “be there” with love and concern.
My granddaughter, Lauren speaks the language of “happiness”. She loves life, she lifts others up, she cares, she laughs and she truly walks in joy.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “security”. I’ve known her for over fifty years and we’ve never once had to “not be ourselves” with each other, because there is true trust and love.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “energy”. She is grounded and spiritual, and she takes care of her body and soul so that she can make the world a better place.
My husband, Larry, speaks the language of “care”. He is selfless in his care for our children, for our grandchildren, for his family, for his friends and for others who are blessed to walk through life with him.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “connectivity”. She is a tireless supporter of many causes (both physically and financially), and selflessly reaches out, connecting people and making a difference wherever she goes.
I have a friend who speaks the language of “spirituality”. In the face of great loss, she has more than “carried on”. She has touched others’ lives and been a torch-bearer for her faith.
One thing that makes all of this even more amazing is that these people, who communicate in such loving ways, speak more than one language of positivity. I could ascribe dozens more wonderful attributes just to those individuals above. I am inspired by the way they CHOOSE to live life.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert; whether you live in an incredibly modest home or a mansion; whether you’re young or old; whether you’re single or in a relationship. What does matter, is that you speak the languages that resonate with your inner spirit; languages that, when you fall asleep at night, allow you to rest well knowing that you’ve been true to yourself; that you’ve spoken YOUR truth.
Ethan speaks the language of “inclusion”. He greets the other children in his class with a smile; he lets them know they ALL matter. He also speaks pretty good “Duck”.