Tonight I am teaching a portion of an “English as a second language” class at a local community college. I am excited and nervous due to the obvious fact that I am not an English teacher and still battle being convinced that I am a “real writer”.
I have gone around and around in my mind about what to say, what to read and whether I should just feign illness and save us all a lot of embarrassment. But, alas, I think I have settled on a couple things I write about that I find to be universally true, regardless of what language you are fluent in.
First, and I plan to test this tonight with college students from around the world, I believe that we are all affected by the disease of cancer, addiction, and plagues of the heart. I am fairly certain that we don’t get a pass just because we don’t live in America. In fact, it is precisely because some don’t live in America that they may battle these diseases and then some. We are, as we know, pretty spoiled here in America when it comes right down to it. But the comradery that comes from shared pain or trials bridges any language barrier. As different as our cultures might be from one another, our humanity, our longings, our sorrows and our dreams bond us at our roots, where all growth and fresh life begins.
And second, I want to impress upon them, and upon all my readers, that their “voice”, in any language, has the power to influence their own personal world and the world at large. Last month I read a creepy little book by Stephen King called “Gwendy’s Button Box”. I haven’t done any research, on purpose, to find out what statement King was trying to make about the Box covered in buttons (buttons Gwendy could push at her discretion to make good, bad or tragic things happen). But here is what it represents to me: power to influence. The button box, which on the last page King reveals is symbolic of the girl’s typewriter, is a tool that can be used to share words, stories and insights that are positive, negative or downright terrible.
No matter what language you speak, the language of your heart will always shine through. What message are you sending when you type? When you text? When you post? Is it a positive one that gives strength and life to the receiver? Or is it a terrible one, shredding someone’s reputation or stealing joy and hope from those who read? From your very fingertips you proclaim edicts that have power to wound or heal.
Learning to speak English if you live in an English speaking country (just like anyone living in a country that doesn’t speak English should follow suit and learn the native tongue) is important because your “voice” is important. What you have to say and being clear in how you say it matters.
But your soul-message, which comes from the heart of who you are, matters above all things. The reason I keep writing and speaking wherever and whenever I am asked, is to help all people find and stay connected to their own personal message, no matter where they live or what their dialect.
***(This post is being posted post event…and remember the “test” I told you about? They passed with flying colors. It has been confirmed that people from Thailand, Venezuela, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, the Congo and the Ivory Coast have also been affected by the diseases of alcoholism, cancer and plagues of the heart.
We are indeed all in this together.