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American Sign Language

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Stories are all around us. They are what move us, make us feel alive, and inspire us. Our appetite for stories is a reflection of the basic human need to understand all aspects of life. Stories are the way we reach out to people and emotionally connect to them. There are many hearing individuals who do not know sign language but move their hands when speaking. Chances are these people would have a hard time telling the story if asked not to use their hands. Additionally, the story told without the assistance of gesture would likely seem lackluster by comparison. My story is that of a typical teenager, with typical mundane responsibilities that followed a basic pattern: go to school, attend church, work on chores, go to work, practice piano, and finish homework. Yet it was the bewitching fabrications of a silent storyteller that made the biggest impact on my life.

It started as a normal Sunday morning, and the routine was the same: wake up, get dressed, eat, and go to church. My grandmother came by my house by 9:30 to pick me up and take me to the morning service. When I walked into the sanctuary, however, I immediately noticed a visitor sitting on the front pew. She was a short woman in her mid-thirties. Her hair was short, curly, and coal black. She had warm brown eyes and an oval face. What truly grabbed my attention was her hands. They were a flurry of gestures laden with hidden meaning, weaving a story. This was the first time I had seen anyone use sign language, and it was fascinating. The whole service I watched as the interpreter translated the sermon to the woman. I approached them after the service ended and we were introduced. Her name was Rosanne and I became known as blue eyes.

It was about three weeks later I began to notice her in town. She would always carry around a notebook and pen just in case someone didn’t quite understand her she would just write it down. She would try her best not to have to write down what she was trying to say and after a while we never need her to. She was always happier that way. We would try to help her when we saw that people didn’t understand her but she showed us that she never really needed our help, just our understanding. I always tried to understand what it would be like to be in her shoes. I tried not to show the frustration in trying to understand her sometimes because I can only imagine how frustrated she was trying to help us understand as well. I put off taking American Sign Language (ASL) because I did not know what to expect.

Eventually, I cracked down and began to take lessons from the interpreter to learn ASL. At first I was extremely discouraged by, despite the considerable amount of time I spent practicing, I was still very unsure and awkward in my translation. In the end, it was Rosanne who gave me the desire to continue working on my project.

Every challenging task comes with its’ own reward. Now stop making me sound



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