Danielle and I headed out to a Deaf Women for Christ conference today. Our very dear friend, Suzanne paid for the conference to thank us for interpreting every Sunday morning at church. So, I want to say a very big “Thanks” to Suzanne for her kindness and generosity! Suzanne was our American Sign Language Level (ASL) 101 teacher way back when and she has been our inspiration and encourager as Danielle and I have plowed through eleven levels of ASL courses over the past three years. If you ever want to learn how to sign, you won’t find a better teacher.
This is the first time that Danielle and I have attended a conference for deaf women with no interpreter. That being said, the music, the special presentation, announcements, testimonies and the prayers were all signed… and of course, the “speaker” signed all afternoon. Danielle and I were left to fend for ourselves and figure out what was going on. It was a huge challenge.
So, I have good news and bad news about this experience.
The good news is that even our deaf friend had trouble understanding everything the guest signer was communicating (she signed REALLY quickly) so Danielle and I didn’t feel so bad admitting that we missed a lot of the message. The bad news is that Danielle and I did indeed miss a LOT of the message. We were able to keep up with the music, the prayers and the announcements but I have to confess that after three hours of focusing intently on the signing, we both got to the point that we just had to tune out for a while. There was about thirty minutes when the two of us quietly brainstormed creative names for our friend’s new cookie business. I’m not proud of this “mental withdrawal” from the group but both of us desperately needed the breather.
Danielle and I love to sign. We have invested hundreds of hours learning the language and the culture of the deaf community. Attending a deaf conference with no interpreter humbled us because once again, we realized how much we didn’t understand but it also reminded us that we have come a long way since we first fumbled our way through “How are you?” and “Bathroom where?” so many ASL classes ago. We can actually express ourselves in sign language and we have the unique opportunity to serve the deaf community.
Danielle and I have laughed our way through some pretty crazy moments, we’ve disciplined ourselves through many years of weekly three – hour classes and we’ve taken the risk to sit at the front of our church every Sunday morning and give our best to interpret for our deaf friends. The really cool thing is that our friendship continues to grow, as does our love, support and respect for each other.
Neither of us can fully articulate to others how we feel when we sign but as we worshiped along side 100 other women this afternoon, arms in the air, hands flying and hearts unified in Christ, I leaned over to Danielle and said, “This is why we sign.” Danielle looked at me and smiled. She agreed and we just kept signing.