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The Challenge

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By: Mariam Janvelyan
Managing Intern

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I looked around the table and all I saw were hands flying through the air, as my classmates recounted their favorite memories related to ASL. Facial expressions excitedly shifted from one emotion to the next and body language expressed volumes more than a mere sentence ever could.

Two hours. That was the challenge. A two hour silent lunch. Two hours communicating without using the one thing we’re so accustomed to: our voices.

The challenge was welcomed and then executed flawlessly. I watched as my classmates went up to the counter, pointed at an item on the menu, then held up two fingers and nodded, confirming their order. I went up and wordlessly asked for the student discount by pointing at myself, showing my student ID card, and signing an exaggerated version of “LESS MONEY?” I saw the understanding dawn on the cashier’s face as he beamed back at me, nodded, and signed thank you.

Thank you. With one simple sign, he broke the cynicism that seems to accompany hearing and Deaf ASL users alike.

For two hours, I heard nothing but the occasional clink of a fork on a plate, the shift of papers, and the hustle and bustle of the busy kitchen. I heard conversations of customers come to a stop as their eyes fixated on our table, trying to decipher the reasons behind our laughter. At the same time, I heard my Professor recount his favorite memories in his time teaching us. I heard my classmates make fun of me for the ridiculous mistakes I’ve made during my journey through the Deaf world. I heard my friends make plans for the weekend.

I heard everything. Why? Because I hear with my eyes, and speak with my hands. The challenge wasn’t just to not speak, but to listen. And I think you’ll find that Deaf people are the best listeners.

 

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This blog post represents the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views supported by The Deaf Dream.

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