Archive for the ‘Teen Read’ Category

photo credit: The Gorilla Foundation

Back in the eighties, it was common for young people to ask each other, “What’s your sign?” They honestly believed that everyone’s “sign” revealed a lot about them.  I never bought into any of that, but I did learn a lot about people by just watching them. I’ve always believed that non-verbal communication often speaks louder than words.  Perhaps that understanding is one reason why the Lord called me to deaf ministry.

My sign today (or should I say sign language) is A.S.L, which stands for American Sign Language. I love the ability to communicate with hearing impaired individuals, and I enjoy watching the expressive way they “speak.” Knowing sign language has come in handy many times; sometimes in rather unexpected ways. For instance, I recently had a unique experience with a gorilla. Of course, we didn’t carry on a lengthy conversation, but he did tell me he was sick.

Let me first explain, some gorillas do know sign language. Have you ever heard of Koko? She is a Western Lowland Gorilla who was born at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971. Placed under the tutelage of scientist Francine Patterson, Koko has learned over one-thousand signs in which to communicate with humans. She wasn’t the first gorilla to learn sign, but she has certainly excelled at it. Because of Koko’s accomplishments, scientists continue to pursue inter-species communication through the use of sign language and they are having good success.

Whether or not the sick gorilla at our local zoo had ever been formally taught sign language or not, he was clearly communicating with sign. Every time I visit the zoo, I linger at the indoor gorilla enclosure for a while and sign to those intriguing primates just to see if I can actually elicit an understandable response.

One day, as I stood there signing “How are you?” one particular gorilla caught my attention. He fixed his gaze on me and I am almost certain he was frowning. “How are you? I asked again. The gorilla then clearly signed, “Sick. Stomach-ache. Headache.” To be sure I had understood him correctly, I signed back to him, “You sick?  “Sick- stomach ache- headache,” the gorilla repeated. A closer look at the precious gorilla revealed that he did have a runny nose and puffy eyes.

I wanted very much to find one of the zoo keepers, but there wasn’t one available. As the next best option, I gave the information to one of the general staff. The message probably never got passed-on, which saddened me greatly because this gorilla was asking for help and I couldn’t give it.

There have been several times I felt that way while at my children’s high school. At one particular event, I took the time to really ‘see’ those teenagers. And rather than being disturbed at the obnoxious hair colors and styles, piercings and tattoos, and the repulsive clothing, I was able to see them through the same eyes with which I watched the gorilla.

Many of these young people were desperately trying in their own way to communicate. They weren’t using sign language, but with their body language and body image, they were clearly shouting: Look at me! I’m hurting neglected, scared and so on. I stood there wondering, how many of us are really “listening” to these young people.

Koko has many critics who insist that she may have learned to imitate some gestures but has no concept of their meaning. Likewise, there are lots of adults who look at today’s teens and think, they are not conveying any particular message; they are just a reflection of their culture. That may be the case with some, but there are a great many that are desperate for someone to notice –someone to care.

There are also countless others out there who seem to be happy and have their lives in perfect order, but looks can be deceiving. If we looked through God’s eyes, it is quite probable that we would see everyone quite differently.

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

As God’s children, we are to have the same love and compassion as our Heavenly Father does. I pray that we all continuously strive to gain a slightly different perspective; one that will cause us to alter our perceptions in such a way that we are more aware of the needs of those around us.

Most importantly, when we do detect that someone is hurting neglected, scared and so on; may we always be quick to show them the love, mercy and compassion of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The world can sometimes be a very dark place, and there are times when we all need a ray of light to bring hope.  Jesus is that light!  Will you be the one He shines through to brighten the lives of others?


postscript: Koko has her own website. You can learn all about her and the Gorilla Foundation here:
The Gorilla Foundation -Koko

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A note to teens –and everyone else for that matter:

In my last post, I admitted that I was a bona fide snake hater. Before you report me to some herpetology activist however, let me say in my own defense, that I have had several rather unpleasant run-ins with snakes in the past.

Several decades ago, for instance, I was horribly embarrassed by one of those nasty, scaly reptiles. For those of you who were born and raised in the city, let me preface this incident by explaining that an outhouse is an outdated, rather crude, prototype to today’s modern porta-potty. I feel the need to explain this, as I actually know people who are clueless about such matters.

It happened in a large underdeveloped park located in the middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. I had only just begun my business in the outhouse when a rather large snake poked its head through a hole in the wall and started its slithery descent downwards. Calmness has never been my greatest virtue (just ask my oldest daughter). So, I allowed my panic to take control, and hurriedly shuffled out of the outhouse with my pants around my ankles.

I hadn’t gotten very far from the building when it dawned on me, people were staring. Worse yet, many of them were laughing and mocking. I was so embarrassed that I briefly considered rejoining Snakezilla, but opted not to because the opinions of those people were far less important to me than my safety and well-being.

The event was terribly humiliating, but I was eventually able to forget it ever happened. Then a few years ago, I was listening to a television evangelist’s sermon on Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. He posed the question: “What do you think this world would be like today if only Eve had recognized that the serpent which tempted her was really the Devil in disguise?” He then challenged his audience to learn from Eve’s mistake when faced with temptation, and to remind themselves, “Snake coming!”

For years I have been trying to heed his advice. I encourage you, dear reader, to do the same. I know it’s not easy. Temptation usually comes at us like a snake in the wall –when we are least expecting it, and it is really difficult to get away.

Still, I truly believe that most teens are incredibly wonderful people with tons of potential who desire to live right and be good. But living in this present world can make this quite difficult because it is heavy with peer pressure and problematic challenges. Nevertheless, dare to be different and stay true to yourself!

When you follow your convictions and stand strong with morality and character, some of your peers may laugh and mock you, but it doesn’t matter what they think. It is more important that you keep yourself safe physically, emotionally and spiritually. And please, be patient with us old fogies. You probably think that we don’t understand. Let me be honest; sometimes we don’t. But we are rooting for you and trying our best to help you stay out of the outhouse. Between you and me, it stinks in there.

From now on, when you face temptation of any kind, including compromise or ungodly conformity, remind yourself: “Snake coming!” and get out of there.

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