Listen, Please

I am amazed by the silence. There is a room full of people just down the hall and no one is saying a word. They are learning a language without sound.

The only thing I hear is the running water in the Men’s Bathroom, the constant hum of the Pepsi machine around the corner and a sporadic ticking of a clock that is four-and-a-half hours behind. Or seven-and-a-half hours ahead. Either way, it is incredibly wrong.

Apart from the tardy timepiece, this is a high school athletic building like every other I have ever visited. Display cases are filled with trophies from years gone by. Retired jerseys hang in the hall with statistics of the player’s accomplishments posted nearby. Sectional nets cut away from basketball rims now drape, lifeless over dust covered plaques.

And yet, there is something so very different about this place. There is something in the silence. It is not the restful peace of a campus on summer break. This is the eerie hush of a world without sound. People inhabit this place but their voices are never heard. They push through the narrow halls. They laugh at dropped books and animated conversations but they do not hear. I am sitting in the Athletic Building for the Indianapolis School for the Deaf.

My daughter has perfect hearing; no jokes about teenagers who refuse to listen. That isn’t my daughter. She is attentive and engaged and she is making an effort to enter this world of quiet, if even only on the fringe. She has also fallen in love with those who have special needs.

My daughter has come to understand that those who can’t hear still have something to say and she wants to be a part of that world.

She has come to learn that people who can’t see may still read the great classics and modern thrillers if they put their finger to a page, and so, she has started learning to read Braille. The Harry Potter book, with its pages bulging from the raised dots is a testament to her desire to learn and understand.

In her summer trip to Mississippi, she came to know those who live in squalor and the deepest poverty. Her heart breaks for these; not as a result of self-righteous pity but because of her understanding of the systems that keep children in rags and bare feet. Her broken heart stirs a desire to love them.

She prays for the children & the poor.

She wishes to learn to read like the blind.

She longs to speak to the deaf.

And so, tonight, I’m sitting in an Athletic Building where no one hears the cheers of the crowd, the echo of the basketball as it bounces off the wooden floor, or the buzzer at the end of the quarter. And I am humbled. I am silent.

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