The Power of “Thank You”: Sign Language Interpreters and Gratitude
Sincere expressions of gratitude positively impact both giver and receiver. Creating an intentional gratitude practice could benefit sign language interpreters and the field of interpreting.
As the days grow darker with the change of the seasons, there is a sense of despair in many arenas of the sign language interpreting field; rough waters on the national front, a swiftly-changing field of work, expressions of dissatisfaction from those who employ our services the most. It almost feels like the perfect storm. One thought keeps those negative thoughts at bay: could we transform our relationships with the Deaf Community and other sign language interpreters if we expressed our thanks more regularly?
My 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 Interpreters Restore Relationships with the Deaf Community. If you do a blog search on StreetLeverage, many of the contributors mention gratitude in their articles. It is not a foreign concept, but my sense is that we need to be more intentional, and we need to do more. The darker the time, the more we need the light of our friends and supporters to show us the way.
Upping the Ante
Sometimes, a simple smile, a “hello”, or a friendly wave of acknowledgment when I’m on the phone in my office is enough to make my day. Each of these gestures has made an impact on me, particularly when I might be struggling in some way. When I remember how meaningful it is to receive these expressions of gratitude, it strengthens my resolve to reach out and share them with others.
After the Community Forum at the RID National Conference this year, I did something I rarely do. I approached two of the speakers and thanked them for sharing their stories. For me, that session was the most memorable of the whole conference. I was moved to tears by the courage and strength of those who stood on the stage that night. While I usually convince myself that presenters don’t need to hear me tell them how great they are, I couldn’t contain my gratitude. The conversations that ensued were so heartfelt and so meaningful to me; I carry them with me still. Perhaps it was more beneficial for me than for them, I don’t know. What I do know is that when I walked away that night, I was inspired to be braver. To take more opportunities to thank those who inspire, support, teach and inform my work.
Finding New Mindsets
“If I am looking for things to complain about, I will find them. If I am looking for things to be grateful for, those will emerge.” Patti Digh, Be Conscious of Your Treasures1
In 2006, one of my favorite authors, Patti Digh, offered a challenge on her blog: “Create a list of 37 people who have helped you and write just one or two sentences that captures the gift they have given you.”2 I took that challenge and the experience was profound. In 2013, she posted an entry in her web series, “your daily rock” titled, “write a thank you note.” In that short missive, she states:
“For four years now, I have written a thank you note every morning. It has changed how I see the world. I look for opportunities to thank, not opportunities to criticize. It is not new skills we need to change our lives–it is new mindsets.”3
The idea of changing mindsets resonates with me personally, and I have been wondering how it could impact our professional community, as well. I hope you will consider exploring a new mindset with me.
A November Challenge: Show Your Gratitude
As the month of November begins, as Thanksgiving approaches, and as many of us await the findings of the RID Risk Assessment, I’d like to challenge StreetLeverage readers to show your gratitude in a focused, purposeful way.
There are a million ways to show your gratitude. Here are some ideas:
- Write a thank you note to one person you worked with the day before and send it or give it to them each day in November.
- Donate time or money to a local Deaf Community organization in November.
- Write gratitude tweets or Facebook status updates to thank people in your community and/or in your work life each day in November.
- Invite someone out for coffee, lunch or dinner who may not be aware of their impact on your career. Tell them about it.
- Start a gratitude journal for your work life. Remember why you became a sign language interpreter in the first place. Do it every day of November (and beyond, if it helps).
Not convinced? Here is an article about the benefits of gratitude.
I hope you will join me in a month of gratitude. I’d love to hear about your experiences, transformations and epiphanies. I know it won’t solve the problems of our field, but it might be a step toward mending or strengthening relationships and partnerships, which may create the momentum to address some of the larger challenges that lay ahead for practitioners and the field in general. Or, it might just make you feel good.
Questions for Consideration:
- What do you think would start to occur within the field if we started to tell each other the things we assume others already know?
- How might an abundance of gratitude impact how we see our work, our teams, the people who use our services?
- What if, in the absence of explicit gratitude based on the work we produce, sign language interpreters expressed gratitude to each other for being a good team, for taking a challenging assignment, for correcting our mistakes, for taking the lead on a day when we weren’t quite feeling it?
- How can we meaningfully express our sincere appreciation to Deaf community members for their patience, guidance, feedback, and their willingness to share their language and culture?
- Digh, Patti. “Be Conscious of Your Treasures.” Web log post. 37Days. N.p., 20 Nov. 2006. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.
- Digh, Patti. “Your Daily Rock: Write a Thank You Note.” Web log post.37Days. N.p., 29 Nov. 2013. Web. 31 Oct. 2015.