A misunderstanding of an ASL sign led Monica Portogallo to contemplate what it means to be a savior.
My son and I have been faithfully watching Kids' Liturgy these last few months of the pandemic. One part of the weekly videos that I enjoy is when Miss Heidi teaches the children two or three ASL signs to go along with the opening song they sing.
I took a basic ASL class a few years back, where I learned the alphabet and about 200 words in sign language. For those who may not know, sometimes in ASL, a term might have two signs put together to express it. For example, the sign for “pajamas” is “sleep” followed by “clothes.” On Christmas, one sign Miss Heidi taught was for “Savior.” It looked to me like the sign I remembered for “love” followed by the sign for “pay attention.”
“Love paying attention” struck me as an odd, but intriguing, way to express “savior.” I contemplated this for a few days before I looked it up to learn more about how that became the sign for savior. I found out that “savior” actually combined the signs for “save” (which is similar to “love,” but held farther away from the chest) and “person” (which uses two parallel hands, just as "pay attention" does, but lower down). Of course, “saving person” makes much more sense to express “savior,” yet I now see some truth within my little ASL misunderstanding.
First of all, as our Savior, Christ came out of love, i.e. willing the good of the other only for their sake. Jesus did not “get anything” for Himself by humbling himself into human form and enduring our punishment; it was only for us. It’s interesting that sometimes in secular circles, “savior” is a pejorative term used to describe someone who helps others because they think they are superior to those they help. Unconsciously or not, they try to “save” others to feel better about themselves or to show off how good they are. It’s “charity,” but without love.
Second, who pays attention to us better than our Savior Jesus? He knows our needs better than we do. He gives us what we need when we don’t even know what we need. I have worked with homeless and needy people in a variety of work and volunteer settings, and I have seen well-meaning people try to save others without “paying attention.” People donate clothes after a disaster, but what the disaster relief effort needs is money for things like food and first aid supplies. People give out apples to the homeless, not realizing that many homeless people have missing teeth and can’t handle hard foods like whole apples. Their intentions are good, but they are not paying attention to the needs of those they seek to help.
So, perhaps after all, part of being a true savior is having love that is paying attention. And though I never would have thought about it this way before, Jesus is the epitome of “Love Paying Attention.”
About the Author
Monica Portogallo is a wife, mother, and registered dietitian nutritionist who does her best not to miss the lessons God sends to her through the joys and struggles of daily life. She lives in California.