Several weeks ago, Preston and I were asked by our friends, Jennifer and Joe, to meet with a friend of theirs, Ricky. Ricky is a Christian film director/producer whose focus is on children with disabilities. Our story has several chapters, but in my eyes, the Lord’s work has been most prevalent in Preston’s journey. I assumed that it was this journey that we would share with Ricky.
I assumed wrong.
Upon arrival, a beautiful young lady, Allison, greeted me. It didn’t take long to discover that Ricky’s friend was deaf, but we communicated with ease. She’s fluent in ASL. I’m not. She grew up within the deaf community. I did not. She had deaf resources that I did not. She’s young. I’m old. 😜 The differences go on, but it was like I had known her for a long time. Her fingers flew as she spoke, my eyes did my hearing for me. We talked about cool things that only “deaf” people can understand. You know, like how we “feel” sounds. We can tell the dryer is still running by placing our hand on the wall. And the conversations we had about lip reading! Lip reading comes as natural to us as breathing does. Though we won’t, we both can tell you conversations that we read 5 tables over last weekend while dining out.
Ricky, Allison and I talked about Allison and I growing up in our prospective lives. Allison is the only one in her family that is deaf. Growing up the way I did in mainstream school, mainstream classes, with a family that’s attitude was normal to me. I have aunts, uncles, cousins, all just like me. You dealt with it. You also dealt with the ignorance that often came with it. I had a first grade teacher, Mrs. Herron, that I don’t think ever had a kid like me in her classes. If I remember correctly, she made my mom very angry when she told her that somebody like me wouldn’t graduate high school. I remember asking my 9th grade homeroom teacher to repeat something he said. This army major told me to “go home and clean my damn ears out and then I’d be able to hear”. Fortunately, by this age, and growing up in a small community, I had friends and peers that came to my defense. This uneducated educator got a little education of his own that day. Not by me, it wasn’t a battle I would have taken on. But my friends did. That poor guy was still telling me he was sorry when I was out of college.
There was also that blind date in high school that Noelle and I went on. I knew that there wouldn’t be a second time after the guy asked me if my hearing aids picked up radio stations. 🙄.
Ricky asked Allison and I a question that I’ve never been asked. He asked “What was something that would make our lives better if hearing people knew?”. I didn’t have an answer. I think Allison said something to the effect of educating the communities more on deaf needs. Later in the conversation, I did share a fear with them that I’ve never shared before. Maybe I’ve watched too many cop shows lately, but I’ve always feared being “innocently” pulled over, but becuase I read lips, I can’t take instructions from a cop facing my back and screaming at me. It would be so natural for me to disobey and turn and face him. And then it’s funeral planning time! ( I know! I know!) Ricky immediately wondered if there was something that could be placed on car tags to signify that it is a deaf driver. Did I tell you that he is learning sign language and really has a heart for the deaf world?
Since that conversation, I’ve realized how blessed I am with some of the greatest family and friends who never complain about repeating themselves. They never complain about me having to see their lips. They don’t mind tapping me on the shoulder and alerting me that I’ve missed something. They don’t announce to the world that I’m deaf, they help me embrace it, quietly and without embarrassing me.
Since that conversation, I’ve also realized that there are many people in my world that need to be taught how to better communicate with people like me.
- If I ask you to repeat yourself, please do just that. Nothing more. Nothing less. Over enunciating does nothing for me but makes your face look hilarious, not to mention that you have lunch stuck in that back right molar.
- Please do not ask me if I can hear you. It doesn’t matter. Trust me, I’ll let you know if I can’t understand you.
- Keep your lips and face clear. I read your lips and facial expressions. I also know what you had for dinner. 🤣
- In a restaurant, I’ll instinctively choose the seat that will have the best lighting across your face. If possible, I prefer to sit with everyone across from me. This gives me a better view of your face and not just the side view.
- I do not hear in the dark. At all. Do not talk to me, touch me, or anything in the dark. Ever. 😊
- Don’t tell me you’re sorry I’m deaf. Why would you be sorry? It’s the way God made me….. perfect in HIS image. I’m not sorry. I like my quiet world 90% of the time. And that percentage increases daily.
- And my biggest pet peeve of all…. please do not ever yell at me. It’s the rudest, most embarrassing thing ever. Especially when you do it in front of others.
Although God healed Hunter, it’s never been something that I’ve prayed for myself. It’s a part of who I am. And I imagine that most people with disabilities look at life with that same outlook.
This weekend, I’m looking forward to being a tiny, tiny witness to Ricky’s ministry, Sparrow Ranch on The Island. I urge you to look it up on Facebook, YouTube, or google and see what this ministry does for disabled children. I’m sure it will be a day filled where the families don’t have to worry about the outside world and they can just let their kids be a kid for the day. We can worship God and His greatness, among the greatest little angels that roam this earth.
But if you come, make sure I can see your lips. I’m just praying that I’ll be able to see them through the tears that are sure to flow.
Until next time,
The deaf bean counter