Sign Language Interpreters and the Karma of Gratitude

November 22, 2011

It is easy to be disheartened by industry and economic challenges. By recognizing mentors and teachers, Brandon Arthur believes the karma of gratitude can lead sign language interpreters through difficult times.

Unemployment, wage reductions, and scant opportunity are just a few things that can describe the last year for sign language interpreters.  I believe it easy, given the industry turmoil, for interpreters to stumble into the trappings of ingratitude.

Who could blame us, its been rough out there.

Calling On Karma

While the industry has been a bit of a roller coaster this year, I wonder if we can improve our circumstances and avoid the pitfall of ingratitude by inviting karma to help us.  It’s worth a try, no?  Let’s try it by expressing our gratitude for a colleague or leader that has made a difference in our career.  To know them is to have been changed for the better.

I’ll start.

Paul Christie

With the exception of my life partner Tara (who is the most amazing person I have ever met and an incredible interpreter to boot), Paul Christie has had a tremendous impact on my career.  He took me under his wing when I was a young and new to the field.  You could say I was more than a little green behind the ears.

During our time working together in the Washington, DC metro area (DC, MD and VA), Paul regularly emphasized:

  • The importance of balancing one’s Deaf heritage with the standards of the industry.
  • That an artist creates the experience and the receiver determines the impact.
  • The importance of balancing family and career.

In addition to the above, and sharing his life experience, Paul was very encouraging when I had the entrepreneurial seizure that later became Visual Language Interpreting (VLI) and was supportive throughout its tenure.

Thank You, Mr. Christie

Paul—thanks for being an incredible human being and an amazing interpreter.  My career and journey in the field has been better because of your personal interest in me.  Thanks for the invitations to your home, and for listening to a young man while he attempted to figure out his career path and life in general—the goo inside.  Lastly, thanks for always being supportive first and constructively critical second.

Take A Turn

I am sure that each of you has at least one person who has had a dramatic impact on your career.  Again, let’s invite karma to help us through these industry challenges by publicly expressing our thanks for those who have given us the push we needed, when we needed it.

Your turn!

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19 Comments on "Sign Language Interpreters and the Karma of Gratitude"

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Diane blastic

Thanks to my mentor, friend and office mate at NTID/RIT, Bill DeGroote. Bill mentored me well after the agreement was over. He taught me to expand my filing cabinet. And the importance of self-care. I learned a lot about staying in control of myself even when I felt I was drowning. Mahalo Bill!


Yea Bill –

Yes indeed, Mr. DeGroote ROCKS!

I also worked with him during my 7 years at RIT/NTID. Bill always had a moment if I had a question.

Thank you Bill.



I am grateful for Mr.and Mrs Earl Long. I was a high school kid learning to sign. They took me under their wings and nurtured and pruned my budding talent. There was no definition of ASL in 1960 but they taught me to sign to them how they signed to each other.
..and not how they signed to other hearing folks.

I will forever be in their debt.

Terri Hayes
Jan Nishamura – who talked and listened and encouraged me to keep trying to be better – even when it felt like “better” was undefined. Paul Christie – in note of the many hours we spent together constructing a model for working together toward a more seamless interactive experience for the Deaf we were working for. A newer/ better defintion for “team”. Lois Diamond – one of those Deaf people who came into the langauge late (she was born hearing, and later became deaf) but who then, when I was young and learning – quite forcefully encouraged me to use… Read more »

I would like to thank two of the most amazing interpreters / mentors.

Ms. Deborah Makowski and Ms. Marilyn Mitchel.

Both of whom worked with me over a 7 year period, both inspiring me to new challenges in my work, both making sure that I laughed at myself.

Thank you Ladies – I love you both.


Paul Christie

I trained among Giants:

Jan Nishimura…the first time I met her, in the warm-up room for my first RID Performance Test in 1984; she told me I was wasting my time. I was floored. She was right. But she encouraged me and befriended me, and I came to know and appreciate her as “Yoda”. I love her.

Terri Hayes…for her patience in dealing with my East Coast sensibilities and for the fun we had being with Deaf people. I miss you.


[…] force it or continue to negotiate; its professionally reckless and doesn’t leverage the karma of gratitude to your […]


Thank you to my mentor, Caron Wolfenden. You really helped me to see where I was and what I needed do to! Thank you also for being a good friend and understanding where I was coming from. 🙂 (UK)

Love this idea! So many to thank, but will start with my dear coda friend Jeannette and her parents Gordon and Genevieve for being my introduction to this wonderful life! Gloria for teaching me, believing in me, and helping me to discover this amazing gift I have been given–you’ll always be my teacher! Sunshine, Debra, Patty and Vosh for your encouragement and continuous education-I learn something new from you each time I am with you! Erin, Cori, Cindie, Ama and all of the interpreters I am so privileged to work with…working with you makes me want to stretch myself and… Read more »

Helen Chang. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with her more frequently than any other fellow freelancer and every single time I did I knew that my work was better as a direct result of the high standard she set for herself, and therefore for me as her team. Her precise, calm, diplomatic approach worked wonders on my highly impulsive emotional energy and I greatly miss her influence and company.


[…] giving, we acknowledge the karma of gratitude in bringing us to this point in our careers. This acknowledgement appropriately puts into […]


[…] karma of these acts of appreciation will come back to you […]


[…] grateful to be able to have embarked on this journey.  In keeping with Brandon Arthur’s article, Sign Language Interpreters and the Karma of Gratitude, I’d like to take a moment to thank the people who have made WestSide TerpTalk such a success – […]


[…] thoughts here are not original. Brandon Arthur talked about Sign Language Interpreters and the Karma of Gratitude back in 2011. Tammera Richards included the idea in her article, #Doable: How Sign Language […]

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