Part of my new optimism ploy for the last eleven months or so has been to catch people doing things right. If I'm going to do it for my "real life" friends, I feel the need to exhibit the same courtesy to my virtual friends. As an ASL minor, I cannot let this story slip by uncelebrated. Please take a moment and realize not everyone in the hearing and medical worlds are the evil deaf-haters that our professors make us out to be. There are exceptions. Please got take a few minutes and read it. Thank you, Jim. Well done. <>< Katie
National Youth Gathering Post One: a YAV at the NYG in NOLA
NYG Post Two: The Savior, The Seat Belt, The Superdome
For the last week, I've been in New Orleans at the LCMS National Youth Gathering. Basically, 25,000 teens from around the country (and world) gather to worship God. As a volunteer, it was my job be enthusiastic, loud and crazy, and cheerful. For a pessimistic introvert, that's not easy. On top of the fact that I knew a grand total of one person at the event. One. Everyone else was greeting friends they hadn't seen in months or years and I was sitting there going, "Yeah, I haven't seen you ever. My name is Katie; what's yours?" Not going to lie, I was jealous and homesick (for my college friends).
My first night in NOLA, they split us up into groups of about 20 to 30 people that we would get to know over the next few days. We shared our name, hometown, and one safety item we brought with us. The conversation had kind of moved on, but it wasn't anything deep or serious (yet). One girl got the attention of our group.
"Just so you all know, I'm completely deaf. If you could please face towards me when you're talking, it'll help me read your lips." Her voice was excellent. I never would have known she could not hear had she not said something.
A little adrenaline rush started inside of me. I wanted to know if she signed. Ten minutes later, we were in a circle more conducive to conversation, and I threw out a simple, "Do you sign?" with Casey's favorite Question Finger. I got a yes. PAH! My little adrenaline rush turned into a bigger adrenaline rush, and I'm amazed I didn't tangle myself into a literal knot. It had been two months since I'd done any serious signing, so I was a little rusty. But it didn't matter.
She was drinking out of her water bottle with her left hand as she watched me. Her eyes lit up. She didn't say, "Cool" or "Neat" or anything. No, she said "Wonderful." I babbled some more and then she took a turn talking about how so many people in the world are clueless about Deaf culture. With the rest of our group staring rather rudely, she and I talked for a few minutes. I learned she, too, knew no one at the NYG.
We weren't glued to the hip, but I made a point to know where she was at most times. I began to imagine what it had been like for her to be trying to lip read everything. A lot of times, she'd just give up and read her book instead of listening (or watching). Once or twice she asked me what someone had said and I signed it back to her.
I don't know how she felt about encountering someone else who signed, but to me it was a sign from God that my week was going to be ok. He was there with me. There I was feeling sorry for myself about not knowing anyong and God sent me someone in a smiliar predicament.
Her honesty in admitting her deafness broke the ice for my group. By the end of the 45-minute Get to Know You time, most of us were in tears. Every person sitting in that circle had a story that would break your heart. Financial challenges that meant it was only by the grace of God that he was able to attend the Gathering. A girl that was signed up to attend the 2007 Gathering but found herself in the hospital instead. A boy who was trying to quit smoking asked us to throw away his cigarettes to remove the tempation that week. A friend of a 2007 participant who has since gone Home to Heaven.
When the adult coordinator came by to give us a five-minute warning, our group was locked together in a hug. In less than three hours we transformed from strangers trying to learn names ("When in doubt, guess Katie") to the family of Christ crying together. I love it!