Figuring Out the Real Meaning of Humane Society
One year as part of our homeschooling program we studied the American Revolution. Elizabeth was particularly interested in one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush, because he is an ancestor of ours.
Elizabeth learned that Rush is called the “Father of American Psychiatry” in part because he instituted many humane measures for people in mental institutions.
After seeing mental patients in appalling conditions [in chains and dungeons] in the Pennsylvania Hospital, Rush led a successful campaign in 1792 for the state to build a separate mental ward where the patients could be kept in more humane conditions.
We had just moved to CO. We were during errands and both checking out the businesses that lined the I-25 Corridor. All of a sudden Elizabeth exclaimed, “That is such a weird place to have a mental Institution! It’s right there alongside the freeway in the middle of all those businesses.”
I also thought that would be a strange place for a mental hospital and so looked to see where Elizabeth was pointing. I looked and looked but couldn’t see what she was talking about.
After a minute Elizabeth said, “Mom, can’t you see that brand new building with the bright blue sign? It clearly says Humane Society.”
I did some quick thinking and it dawned on me that Elizabeth thought the humane society was for mental patients. Some discussion between us soon cleared up the confusion we had about the definition of “Humane Society.”
Your Turn . . . Describe a time when you had a miscommunication about the meaning of words.
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