ON HAND: Unknowingly setting examples

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

The waiter came over to us and handed me a note. A friend and I were at a restaurant having dinner, laughing and exchanging animated stories.

The note said, “The man that was sitting behind you earlier paid for your tab and said he has a little daughter that is deaf. He said to tell you ladies to have a great day!”

We sat there, looking at each other in complete surprise. We hadn’t even noticed the man, who had already left. What an incredible random act of kindness, we thought.

This led to a discussion about how we often make an impact upon hearing people without even realizing it. Anytime, anywhere we use ASL, we’re sending out a message.

And I like to think that this message is a positive one: that we lead normal, happy lives, and that we -choose- to use ASL.

I told my friend about how I walked into the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf office one time and approached the office assistant (who was hearing). She smiled and said, “You don’t remember me, do you?” I didn’t, and apparently, I had taught her how to fingerspell the alphabet when we rode the bus to day camp. I was flabbergasted–I don’t remember much about the camp, but I do remember being a bit isolated at the camp, being the only deaf camper. I can’t even remember riding the bus.

Often this has happened: when I’m out in public using ASL, deaf children come up to me and ask if I really am deaf just like them. I love how their faces light up when I nod happily and say, “SAME!”

We all have had ‘coincidence’ encounters like that. But I, deep in my heart, believe they’re no coincidence. Whenever we use ASL in public, we’re setting a wonderful example. Phooey on those who pity us. They have no idea what they’re missing.

Besides, if using ASL gets me a free dinner, I’m all for it.

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