Leviticus 19:14 Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.
Some would think this is a politically incorrect title. Oh well.
Recently I went the annual picnic of Hearing Loss Association of America, Washington State Association. It was good to see people I haven’t seen for a while. It was good to meet new friends too. I have been away from hard of hearing people for so long, I missed being with them. They are my own kind. I am one of them. With them, I am more at ease. If I don’t hear something correctly, it’s OK. No one will look down on me. After all, all of us in the group are hard of hearing. We understand each other. We can relate to each other.
I am reminded of a few years ago when my wife and I were going to start a ministry, of bringing hard of hearing people back to church. We had already visited a few churches and even went down to Cascades Camp to talk with the people there. This was going to be a big job, and I am not very good at communicating. My wife was reading a big fat book called ‘For Hearing People Only’ by Matthew S. Moore & Linda Levitan. She wanted to understand even more about deaf and hard of hearing people. Sometimes she would ask me if I felt this way or that way about whatever. My answers would almost aways agree with the book. I never did read the book and most likely, never will.
Over a year ago my wife, my partner in life, got sick. Our lives changed. The ministry for hard of hearing people stopped. Will it start up again? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. It is needed. Many hard of hearing people become isolated. Some of us are difficult to talk with. People often will give up, which isolates us. Also when we don’t understand everything said, it isolates us more. Then to make things worse, often times when we don’t understand what is said, some people think we’re stupid. And then we become still more isolated.
Listening is hard work for us. A few years ago, I took three college quarters of ASL. American Sign Language. There I learned something very interesting. It is easier for me to concentrate for two hours on learning a new language (ASL) in silence, than it is to concentrate on listening to someone talk for only one hour. We don’t always hear every word, and are constantly going back to fill in the blanks in our minds, then quickly race forward to hopefully not miss anything said. Like I said, hard work. Often we fail. Light talk with a friend, is often easy. But listening to a subject that we are unfamiliar with, it gets difficult. The other day, I was in a meeting with professionals to talk about my wife. I couldn’t take notes, because I had to concentrate on what was being said. I can’t write and listen at the same time. Then comes the letters. Was that a D, E, B, C? What was being said? After a while I figured out that it was either a B or a D. I asked which. I didn’t understand. I asked again. Still didn’t understand. So I asked, “Was that sound for a flying bug, or for dog? They both sound the same to me.” I am grateful that my sister-in-law was there to help.
My hearing is worse than some, but better than others. We are all different. I am happy to say, that our church does a good job of providing assisted listening devices for hard of hearing people. They also do a good job of looking at me when we are talking so I can see their mouth. This helps a lot. But, what about some of the other churches? There are so few that even understand what’s needed for us. If we are parts of the body of Christ as it says in Romans 12:4-5, shouldn’t we include the whole body?