Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:14 NLT)
Recently I went to the annual picnic of Hearing Loss Association of America, Washington State Association. I have been away from hard-of-hearing people for so long, I missed being with them. They are my own kind. With them, I feel more at ease. If I don’t hear something correctly, it’s OK. No one will look down on me. After all, everyone in the group is hard of hearing. We understand each other.
I am happy to say that Creekside does a good job of providing assisted listening devices for hard-of-hearing people. You do a good job of looking at the person you’re talking to so we can see your face. This helps a lot. But what about other churches? If we are parts of the body of Christ as it says in Romans 12:4-5, shouldn’t we include the whole body?
A few years ago, my wife and I were going to start a ministry of bringing hard-of-hearing people back to church. This was going to be a big job, and I am not very good at communicating, but Karen would help. Then, over a year ago now, Karen got sick. Our lives changed. Our ministry stopped. Will it start up again? I don’t know. But it is still needed.
Since I can’t work on the ministry, I wanted to share some of what it’s like for “my kind.”
Listening is hard work for us. A few years ago, I took three college quarters of American Sign Language. There, I learned it’s easier for me to concentrate for two hours on learning a new language in silence, than it is 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 having to race forward to hopefully not miss anything. Light talk with a friend is often easy. But listening to a subject that we are unfamiliar with gets difficult.
The other day, I was meeting with medical professionals 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 once. Then come 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 their answer. I asked again. Still didn’t understand. So I asked, “Was that sound for a flying bug, or for a dog? They both sound the same to me.” I am grateful that my sister-in-law was there to help, but it illustrates the difficulty we have in relating to hearing people.
If you’re interested in learning more, Karen was reading the book For Hearing People Only, by Matthew S. Moore and Linda Levitan, 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 a subject, and my answers would most often agree with the book.
Many hard-of-hearing people become isolated. Some of us are difficult to talk with. People often give up, which isolates us. When we don’t understand everything that people say, it isolates us more. Some people begin to think we’re stupid. Then we become even more isolated still. That’s why it’s important to know how to relate to hard-of-hearing people. We are still members of the body of Christ.