Leah Francis : Finding the Way contents

Show Me a Sign

Little Jodie wanted to cry, but couldn't work out why, except that It had something to do with what Sarah had said about Auntie being angry.

Auntie had shouted at Jodie for climbing on to the kitchen table.

"She wasn't really angry," Sarah had said, "because she was smiling all the time."

Jodie knew about stealing. You took things when you were sure nobody was around. She knew about hiding, too. You hid where you couldn't be seen. and you kept very quiet.

But she didn't understand how people told each other things without speaking, or said one thing with their voices and another with their bodies.

Sometimes they misunderstood her, too. She would be listening closely to what Uncle was saying but he would ask, "Are you listening? Can you hear me?" She didn't know he wanted to see some facial response.

Someone offered to bring Jodie's cardigan to her as she hosed the garden. Cold, and impatient with their slowness, she ran into the family room shouting, "What about my cardigan? Are you growing the sheep or something?"

How could she know their neighbour had come in to say his wife had been run over? How could she read their body language –shock. Sympathy!

During a pause in a meeting, Jodie introduced a new topic. Everyone was irritated. They had been considering previous remarks, you could see it in their faces.

A university student couldn't understand what Jodie, the lecturer, was talking about. He looked bewildered, took no notes, questioned Jodie with his eyes, and finally took a novel from his pocket and began to read. How could Jodie help? She hadn't seen a thing.

Jodie was proud of her sense of humour. Once she noticed students weren't laughing at her jokes.

We smile, someone explained.

At dinner with friends Jodie exploded, letting out pent-up rage, losing control, unfairly accusing her friends. Only her partner could speak. Angrily he tried to intervene, but Jodie, unaware of her friends, distress. went on shouting.

Her partner left.

People gesticulate, laugh at gestures, look grim, shake their heads, nod, look eager, lower their eyes, stiffen. Jodie's gestures are sparse, she doesn't make eye contact, she can't 'see' the joke, read expressions.

Jodie doesn't want to hurt, be left out, appear disinterested, or bore people, and nobody wants to offend her or leave her out, or to have to behave unnaturally.

What can Jodie and the rest of us do?

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