Joy comes from hearing other people’s stories

Day by Day

Joy comes from hearing other people’s stories

By LIZ THOMPSON

November 14, 2016
This Week News

Every day I’m reminded there are miracles.

When I put my cochlear implant voice processors on my ears, sounds of life flood my brain — voices or music on the radio, water running, the coffee pot dripping and my husband talking to me or our dog — and I smile.

All these sounds were happening, even when I couldn’t hear them. They went on much like people’s lives, even though I don’t know them.

One important fact I learned as a reporter years ago is that everyone has a story with many chapters. The stories range the full spectrum, from celebration to sorrow.

Before my first implant, in 2002, I was a deaf reporter relying on several things: one ear that had some hearing with a hearing aid, my ability to lip-read, pen and paper, computers and people’s patience.

I let people know I wanted to hear their story and they all complied, doing whatever was necessary to get the story right.

My favorite interviews were when friends and family gathered to remember a loved one. I looked at photos, old newspaper clippings, scrapbooks and more. I heard and saw laughter and tears while writing a story of a legacy worth remembering. Legacies born of hard work, loving their families and respecting life.

Once I had my first implant and the ability to understand speech made conversations possible, I treasured interviewing others even more. The strain was gone for both parties, and I developed a deeper interviewing style that was a joy for me.

The local politicians might not have liked that I could understand, but I did. News also ran the full spectrum, and 15 years ago, I reported the facts — both sides, unbiased and without commentary.

Especially since my second implant in the other ear, I love engaging in conversations with others. When I ask, “How are you?” I really want to know and wait for an answer.

Last month, we were camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. One day, we stopped at a picnic grounds by a creek for a snack. A woman was reading a book, and I asked what she was reading.

“A book by Lisa Wingate,” she said. “I love her writing!”

“I’ve read all her books and am one of her early readers,” I replied.

She saw my cane, I think, and came over to our table. We chatted for a bit and she sat down. She was Junella from Indiana, named for relatives June and Ella. I told her Ella is the name of the protagonist in my fiction book I’d recently finished, and she smiled.

I felt I’d known her for more than the moments we talked about books and life in general. All too soon, we had to be on our way. I left her my card and told her I’d love it if she emailed me.

This conversation would have been impossible prior to 2002, unless she knew sign language, and I was never proficient in that.

Throughout our camping trip, we had various conversations with people from all over the U.S. We talked weather — it was much warmer than usual and very dry — and about our dogs, campers, music, children and grandchildren, trips we’d taken and even politics, which was a hot topic this year.

It thrills me to be able to catch every nuance of the conversation and hear the different accents and still understand the words.

Most of us know the tradition of Thanksgiving began as a way to show gratitude for the harvest. In an era of at least presumed plenty, we need to think of those who don’t have enough to survive well. There are many ways to help — food pantries and missions, to name a couple.

But the need might be on your street or nearby.

The list of what I am thankful for is too long to write here, but hearing and understanding again tops the rest. Each new day, I’m reminded of this blessing. I don’t take it lightly.

If you tell me your story, I will listen. Count on it.

When I start asking people questions, my husband teases me that I’m in my reporter mode. But the truth is, I’m interested and intrigued by other people’s experiences. I may not write one of your stories, but I’ll count it a blessing that I understand your words.

Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News. Reach her at lizt911@gmail.com.

 

Celebration of freedom, people always valuable

Celebration of freedom, people always valuable

By LIZ THOMPSON

July 26, 2016

ThisWeekNews

This month, we celebrated the independence of our country, the day we became a sovereign nation. After 240 years, you’d think we’d be tired of celebrating. Yet every year, fireworks, picnics, family gatherings and all kinds of events throughout our country mark the date.

When I was a city reporter, some 15 years ago, I gravitated to the positive stories of people who overcame obstacles or were helping others do the same. I loved stories about people who spent hours planning Fourth of July celebrations and those who lined streets to see the fruits of their labors.

I met inventors, entrepreneurs, teachers, physicians, firefighters, police officers, students, artists, musicians, mentors, parents, those remembering loved ones, council members, city workers and business people whose stories filled page after page of the local paper.

I loved every minute and always learned something new. I even had a lesson in shuffleboard and an offer to learn chess from a man who volunteered in the schools teaching children this game of strategy.

Of course, news is always a mix, and I had to do a little bit of everything.

Even after 9/11, when this country was turned upside down, positive stories were plentiful.

Children were placing flags up and down their streets, and churches were full of those praying for the families who lost people in the terror attacks.

We had new respect and understanding of the risks the safety forces endure, especially since we weren’t sure what would happen next, or if anything would happen. To that end, many were praying for our safety and for our country in a time of crisis.

Those who lived through the Depression and World War II and were still alive to tell about it likened the reactions in our country to those times when people pulled together to survive and support one another.

We didn’t have to plant victory gardens or use ration books to meet our needs after 9/11, but we were in as much shock as people were after the attack on Pearl Harbor. We didn’t know how far things would go or what our margin of safety was.

In spite of those things, we are a resilient people.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get into a celebratory mood when we see what’s going on in our country.

Today, we have news at our fingertips on TV, computers and smartphones, newspapers and, yes, even the radio — which was what our nation had during WWII for immediate news.

Sometimes I want to shut it all off. It’s almost too much saturation, and I struggle to find the good news that’s sent to the shadows.

So much news is sensationalized that I find myself sorting through those stories looking for the people who are making a positive difference — the youth who are learning and want to make a difference in this country. I know they’re out there, but we don’t hear enough about them.

I like to read and hear about everyday people doing everyday jobs to keep our lives humming.

What would we do without the people who physically built America and those who maintain and protect it today?

Of course, it’s not the celebrations that make us free, and even if we don’t watch parades or eat from picnic baskets, what’s important is that what makes our country great lies within each of us.

We have the freedom to vote and we can do it with a clear conscience. Freedom means we uphold the laws of our land and respect the people who protect us from harm.

Freedom does not mean we can do whatever we please, no matter the consequences.

I hope we never stop celebrating. I hope these traditions won’t die and that each new generation will realize the sacrifices their ancestors made, and still are making, to keep us free. I hope our youth will join in the effort to keep America free.

Irveline Evans of Upper Arlington is one person I met as a reporter. She and her mother survived a Japanese war camp. She said, “I am always moved to tears when I hear the American national anthem, and I am only recently a Yank!”

Our nation is not perfect, but I hope each of us will continue to strive to keep it united.