Looking into the Eye of Trust

by Sarah Benton, NIC, CI/CT, NAD V, MSW

black and white photo of close up of human eye inEyes.

Iris, pupil, lens.

So much more than their parts.

I can still see my mom, or more importantly, I can still feel my mom – her connection to me through her eyes. Her stare would bore into me, render me helpless.

Try to avert her gaze, then glance back in her direction, and there were her eyes – reaching out and making contact without a missed beat.

There was no escape, no place to hide.

Now, with decades as a professional interpreter under my belt, this connection with Deaf people resounds.

I understand the power interpreters can wield when we avoid eye contact with a Deaf person. We attempt to control who participates and when. Oh, that person will start fingerspelling, and I’m going to be sunk! Don’t look at them.

Have we done it? Have we seen others do it? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer will likely be an uneasy “yes.”

While I spend oceans of mental and emotional energy contemplating ethical behavior of interpreters, that is not what inspires me to share these thoughts. The impetus is the eyes, and not the physical structure but rather the doorway they embody, the intense connection they allow which supersedes all others.

I think back to my mother’s eyes. I see the milky blue, enlarged by the lenses striving to overcome her legal blindness. Regardless, she hit the bullseye of my heart.

We enter a very personal space with a Deaf person. We are permitted entry into this space to provide a service, and as a byproduct, we make a connection. If we allow it, if we avail ourselves to make a human connection, if we acknowledge the extreme privilege we have to be present in people’s lives, we cannot help but avail ourselves to this connection.

Treat it with care, and never take it for granted.