What I Learned in ASL Class
Last year I was reading a blog about the deaf and how many of their relatives won’t learn ASL. I myself have seen this. But as I read further, I realized they were talking about a different ASL than what I thought. They were talking about Australian Sign Language. I was thinking American Sign Language. Interesting that two countries in different parts of the world have the same cultural problems. Of course, since I am an American, I’ll be talking about what I learned while taking American Sign Language.
I was talking with a couple of people once about why people who lose their hearing will often drop out of church. I explain that once that happens, that church loses a valuable resource. The people said something like, “Just crank up the sound.” I told them it doesn’t always work that way. Much of the time captioning is needed. They had a hard time understanding this.
So, I explained that I and many others who are hard of hearing or deaf use captioning when watching TV. One of them finally spoke up saying, “I never thought of someone who can’t hear, needing to rely on sight to understand what’s going on.”
There is a joke that goes around the deaf community about a hard-of-hearing person on an airline telling a flight attendant that they can’t hear the airline safety speech. The “helpful” attendant brings the manual written in braille for the deaf person to read. So often people are either clueless or simply don’t think.
And this brings me to the American Sign Language course I’m taking. My teacher is deaf, and I’m sure she gets tired of some of the stupid things her students say or do. I shouldn’t say stupid if someone doesn’t know any better. But after a while, I believe I would go nuts. How does she put up with it all?
One day I decided to ask her. But I wanted to ask in the correct American Sign Language grammar. (It’s different from English.) So I sign, “OK. With people, you have patience how?” Then the answer came to me. I don’t need to ask my teacher. The Lord just told me. I instantly thought patience = love. Love = patience.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NLT)
Often our teacher says she loves us. Before, I thought it was just her personality. I still do. But now I also believe that maybe she says this so that she will remember to love others the way the Lord wants us to. (I believe she is a Christian.)
So the most important thing I learned in ASL class was love.
And if I want to bring non-hearing people back to church, I need to remember 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (NLT):
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Steve can be reached by email here.