Shorthand

Court reporting has always been the most mysterious part of a courtroom to me.  I am a hunt-and-peck typist, and all of my efforts to learn correct typing skills have resulted in frustration and laughter from Mavis Beacon.  She’s a really mean computer program, I tell you… okay, mostly because I enabled sound effects that apparently mock you when you hit a wrong key or type too slowly.  I never took typing or keyboarding in school, either.  It may shock you to learn that my elective schedule was too full with art class, math team, choir, and Spanish.  I have honed my hunt-and-peck skills, so that you probably wouldn’t notice that I can’t type without looking at the keyboard, but my speed severely limits my ability to take dictation of any kind.  Understandably, court reporting is out of the realm of possibilities for me: you not only have to type at the speed of conversation, but you also have to know and understand a special shorthand.  Maybe it is the magic of motion pictures, but I am always astounded when the court reporter on a television show reads back several minutes of dialogue from what appears to be three inches of adding machine tape.

But we all have forms of shorthand that we use every day.  For instance, if you have a profession, there are terms that you use that apply strictly to your trade.  Every hobby you have requires a working knowledge of the craft or activity you are attempting to complete.  I recall looking at the information for the triathlon I conned my best friend into entering with me, and wondering, “What in the world does T1 and T2 mean?”  All I knew up to that point was swim, bike, run (What do you mean I have to transition?!).

Sometimes, shorthand can be a barrier to real communication.  Many regular church attendees, especially in the Bible Belt, have a hard time avoiding “religious” or “church” words when they are talking to someone who isn’t familiar with the lingo.  “I was backsliding until I repented of my sins and rededicated my life.”  Chances are, if you’re not Southern Baptist, you don’t really understand what that meant.  I would guess that even if you did understand it, you fall into one of two camps: Camp A which sees no issue with defaulting to the lingo, or Camp B which is frustrated by the lingo because it so often falls short of truly expressing the heart and soul of your faith.  I suppose it’s evident that my tent is pitched in Camp B.  The problem with exclusionary shorthand is that you prevent an outsider from coming into your campground and staying long enough to roast marshmallows around the fire.  I can think of nothing that should be more clearly communicated than the truth of who God is and how he loves us, yet we often entangle ourselves in the semantics or catch phrases.

But shorthand can be useful, too.  In the church example, there is an amazing shorthand among followers of Christ: there is (or should be) an immediate family connection, and they already know the most important things about you without asking a single question.  If you tell me you follow Christ, then I already know you are my brother or sister in faith, and the rest is just details as the saying goes.  I have some beautiful friendships that have developed on that foundation alone.  This blog has also provided a shorthand among my friends.  It allows me to share more than I would either be willing or able to do in a quick conversation, which means that most of my quick conversations have immediately started on a deeper level.  It has allowed others to share things they probably wouldn’t have otherwise, which offers me a shorthand to their struggles, too.  It has turned us into court reporters of the heart, if you will, and that quick and deep plunge into friendship is priceless.

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