Conversing with the Hands
2005. It was this year when I first saw them. I had just given birth to a beautiful baby and bringing a newborn to church may not be the best idea but my husband and I needed our “daily bread” so we decided to go to church and stay on the second floor of the auditorium. The first person I noticed was a woman sitting on a high chair in front, her back towards the altar and her hands moving gracefully. I looked at the audience immediately in front of her. Some were watching her intently while others were “chatting” with another. I realized we were seated with the hearing-impaired members of the church. I watched the woman as she interpreted the pastor’s words to a language that is well understood by her audience – American Sign Language. It was entertaining and hypnotizing to watch them. That day changed my life. When I got home, I decided I will learn ASL (American Sign Language).
2007. Every year, the Deaf members of the church offer Basic Sign Language Course to any hearing who is interested. I asked my brother if he would like to join me which he gladly did. So after 2 years of contemplating, I finally enrolled to learn Sign Language.
The class is held once a week, every Sunday afternoon. The first few lessons were hard. It was hard to remember the signs for the words. I needed to review the words constantly, at least once a day for the entire week, lest I forget them. It was actually a relief to see my first exam with just one mistake. After a couple of weeks, I was quite comfortable with the lessons except for one thing – I have questions about the lessons but I couldn’t ask my teacher because she’s deaf and I don’t know how to communicate. There are two ways to communicate, actually. The first one was to write down your question. The other one was to finger-spell what you want to say or ask. I usually write it down.
After 6 months, I graduated from the course. It was then that I decided to join the Deaf Ministry and learn more about their culture and about Sign Language and become a volunteer interpreter for the Deaf.
2011. It has been four years since I graduated from the Sign Language class. And so far I have learned so much from the Deaf:
• I have learned that they can also make and takes jokes but in a different way.
• I have learned that they are actually more patient than the hearing – especially in teaching.
• I have learned that they also go out and they know how to have fun.
• I have learned that they also watch TV even if they cannot hear it.
• I have learned that when they watch movies without subtitles, they rely on the facial expressions and gestures of the actors to follow the story.
• I have learned that they are great actors and performers.
• I have learned that they are not disabled but they are differently abled.
• I have learned that they also study and work and long to live normal lives.
• I have learned that they are humans that experience joy, sadness, loneliness, grief, suffering and anger and fear.
• I have learned that although they cannot hear, they can see and feel if people around them are making fun of them.
• And finally, I have learned that I still have much to learn about them and I will continue being with them because they have become like family to me.