When I was a kid, not yet a dozen years old, a girl moved into our neighborhood who was deaf. She was the daughter of the pastor of the church on the corner, and since she was our age, several of us decided to learn American Sign Language. We tried to self teach (a big deal for eleven-year-olds) and I seem to remember an adult giving us a few classes. My memory is fuzzy as to why we quit, but even through the haze of time, I certainly still know my hand alphabet, so if needed, I could communicate in a slow, spelled out, laborious way (if, for instance, I was on a desert island where there was no pen or paper…or computer…or texting phone…or stick in the sand…). I have a few friends who are quite fluent in ASL and sign as volunteer work teaching, even a friend who used to sign Broadway shows, perched on the corner of the stage apron, for special performances. I’ve always been jealous of them–to watch someone sign, especially lyrics of a song, is truly beautiful.
This comes to mind because of a conversation I had last night with an old friend who has been working in audiology–fitting people for hearing aids and calibrating the devices (which are sooooo much more advanced than the clunky and squealing things that my Grandpa had in the arms of his chunky horn-rimmed glasses). This friend told me about her hopes to start working with the Starkey Hearing Foundation on some of their Global Hearing Missions. The foundation goes to developing nations–more than 100 trips to impoverished regions each year–and using donated old hearing aids, takes the components out to build new assisted listening devices, and gives the gift of sound to hundreds of thousands of children and adults. That is the gift of hearing a mother’s voice for the first time…or music…or birdsong…or the children around you playing…or laughter…or wind in the trees… Thousands of volunteers and donors around the world bring hearing to more than 50,000 new patients each year. Making a donation to become a “Hearing Angel” is a great way to make the music in your life a little louder, to be heard by more minds and stir a few more souls.