One of my and Michael’s friends, Andrew, also happens to have Cerebral Palsy. Both Michael and Andrew speak differently because of CP. However, this does not mean that they can understand each other; in fact, while I understand Michael perfectly fine, and while Andrew’s wife Carrie understands him perfectly fine, and I understand Andrew pretty well and Carrie understands Michael pretty well, Andrew and Michael sometimes have hard time understanding each other, as Andrew (a stand-up comedian and screenwriter) pointed out to me so refreshingly a few years ago.
Which is pretty fabulous, when you ponder it, and true on so many levels.
You are not just one more student or dropout or kid or teenager or patient or old person or parent or teacher or tourist or homeless person or voter or insomniac or pedestrian or shopper or photobomber or billboard sign reader or tooth brusher or restaurant patron or general cluster of cellular activity. You are, in fact, quite uniquely each of those things that you are; no one else brushes their teeth or photobombs their friend’s selfies quite like you do.
And—just as Michael and I can communicate more freely than Michael and Andrew, so I find I can often connect with those who are of a different religion or heritage as well or better than those more like myself. Such as how I can connect with Michael, the ever optimist, more than I can connect with others who tend to be cynical the way I sometimes am.
And—every once in awhile, I don’t understand Michael, and when I talk too quietly, he doesn’t understand me. But we love each other, and I know that Michael and Andrew love and respect and admire each other as well. And, of course, you know that your parents did not understand the fascination you might have had with chewing on twigs when you were five years old. (Um, let me clear my throat for a moment). But they loved you.
And—just like others can love you even when they don’t understand you, you can connect with others you don’t understand. If you don’t understand someone’s words, you can connect over attentiveness or shared experience or social media or deep mutual respect. If you don’t understand someone’s lifestyle or choices, you can connect with them by looking for commonality or by understanding that you have a different background and different life experience, and simply appreciating them for the valuable person they are.
And I’m pretty sure I haven’t even scratched the surface—so much good in the fact of two friends who can’t always understand what the other is saying.