Last fall, a remarkable thing happened in our church. We welcomed a deaf congregation into ours. Now this may now seem too remarkable, but if you know much about deaf culture, then you know that often the deaf remain isolated. When our pastor shared with us about joining with this congregation, he stressed over and over that their members were to be our members. He wanted real relationships, not a “deaf ministry”. So here we are six months later and I’m taking an American Sign Language class.
I am so excited about this! All I’ve ever really known before is finger-spelling and a few signs we used with the boys regarding mealtime, please /thank you, etc. Now I get to learn it all. It is overwhelming! In case you know little about ASL, it is not just signing what you are speaking. It is learning a whole new visual language with new grammar, syntax, cultural norms, etc. Things that are rude in our speaking culture are normative in a deaf culture. For example, it is acceptable to “eaves drop” on a signed conversation. If those involved in the signed conversation want privacy, they will sign with small hand movements or seek a private area. Also, signing involves a great deal of facial expressions.
Several of the families who have started attending our church have small children. I have smiled and nodded, mouthed “hello” in the nursery hall, but as of yet, I’ve not really extended myself to communicate with them. Tonight I learned to get over my foolish pride of looking stupid or making them uncomfortable. These women are patient and kind, ready to make new friends, too.
I’ve seven more weeks of this first ASL class. Then, hopefully I can advance on to the other advanced classes. Oh, one more thing. JD is actually taking this class with me! Missie is keeping the boys for us so we can learn together.