From Elaine Cox
Before Tony and I left Cornwall and ‘retired’ to Taunton almost ten years ago, I had the privilege of working for three years at a respite centre for adults with learning disabilities in our village. The Centre was called Chy Keres (Cornish for ‘Cherry Tree’), and is part of Hft, formerly the Home Farm Trust. My experience of working there was definitely ‘three-dimensional’, and I received the most amazing training which enabled me to do my job as a Relief Support Worker, and equipped me to support my mother living alone at home.
One of the things I appreciated most was the emphasis on the essential role of communication, and the need to understand how important it is to identify each individual’s ‘chosen’ form of communication, and then to use it!
I became even more aware about how important it is to ensure that everyone present in any group should be helped to feel fully included in whatever was happening, if they so wish. Learning some Key Word signing (at last I had permission to use my hands as I talk!) which is similar to Makaton and not as complicated as British Sign Language, helped greatly, but of course people also communicate so much through body language and with their eyes. I realised something important, which was that, in certain circumstances, music and singing can be used to help in very practical ways where there may be communication challenges.
Since then I’ve found that these principles actually may need to be applied in any situation when it comes to communication! We may be able to speak, but how do we know that we’ve been understood correctly? There may be nothing wrong with our hearing, but do we give our full attention to whoever is speaking, and do we really listen carefully enough? Are the words we use always helpful, and easy to understand?
Something that has been ‘bothering’ me for some time, is the use of Cyber and Social Media for necessary, good and even evil purposes. I have to confess I’ve been very reluctant to use it, not really trusting it completely, and still using ‘hard copies’ to work from and refer back to. Our son was afraid that I would be ‘left behind’!
This ‘Lockdown’ has made me think again. It’s undoubtedly brilliant to be able to keep in touch during our present circumstances if we want or need to, and to find out what’s happening in the lives of those we would normally be meeting with. For those who have the right gadgets we are even able to have virtual meetings with family and friends (although it’s not so easy to sing together with the variable time lapses on Broadband!. Also, it’s definitely not so easy to send your apologies to such meetings!)
However, it is still necessary to recognise and use each individual’s ‘chosen’ form of communication, where they ‘centre’ themselves, be it email, texting, writing a letter or card; or chatting over the garden fence (being careful of course to socially distance ourselves); and not forgetting the telephone, a precious opportunity to hear a voice and to be able to actually use one’s voice for someone who is alone during this self-isolation. The ‘phone can literally be a life-line to so many who are lonely, and this also applies to our local radio with its ‘phone-in opportunities.
I’ve worked it out that there are at least 15 ways that I’ve been using my mobile phone to communicate over the last two months, and I’m only ‘paddling in the shallows’! However I have found that I can easily forget where I’ve had these various exchanges, and that some three hours can go by just standing flicking through the screen not moving another muscle – and that other muscles then stiffen up with inactivity!
So, rambling on like this, I think what I’m leading up to saying is that there are sooooo many, many ways to stay in touch with the people we care about and are involved with – which is an indication of the fact that we social beings do need to communicate, mindfully and carefully!
Reading through the lectionary readings set for this week I’ve been reminded in Acts 7 that Stephen, one of the seven who were chosen to help the disciples in the work of the early, rapidly growing church, undoubtedly seized an opportunity to speak out and share his faith, despite the risk of rejection, and the cost to himself (Acts 7)………. In 1 Peter 2 v.9 we’re told that…… ‘You are a chosen people …… that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light’; ……and in John 14:14, that Jesus said to His disciples, “You may ask me for anything in my Name, and I will do it”.
So, I do believe the Lord will be using us, ‘working from home’, and that we have an opportunity now to get back in touch with some, and keep in touch with others, using whichever form of communication works for us or them individually …… sharing our faith as we speak or write, and reaching out to someone who may be feeling really lonely at that moment. We could still ‘read body language’ and have some ‘eye contact’ using Skype, Face-time, Whats App, Zoom, and many other methods, and still have time to do some new things.
I’m off to enjoy some more time in the garden we are so blessed to have, trying to keep on top of the various jobs that need to be done, communing with Nature and envying the birds who are singing more loudly than ever, because I’m missing our singing together very much! I am also hoping that, if I am watchful and look after it, our very own Cherry Tree may actually manage to produce some fruit for us this year!
May God bless you, with love.
Elaine C ..x