On the Experience of Coming Last in Class.
I am by personal disposition a middle of the pack student. It is rare for me to be first in class, and, until yesterday, never last.
But there I was in an introductory class of American Sign Language hopelessly out of my depth and receiving hand written missives from my deaf instructress telling me that no one will know what I was trying to communicate.
Some time ago I was approached by the deaf community to celebrate Sunday Mass with them regularly. They promised they would translate into American Sign Language my prayers and what I said in my homily. All I had to do, in other words, was to show up.
But I thought that from a pastoral point of view I should try to learn one of their languages. In my case that meant I had to learn to sign.
What a task I took on! I am no longer nimble with my fingers and hands, nor can I remember what shape my fingers should take to say something, not verbally as I have done all my life until now, but visually.
Then there is the subculture of the deaf which is quite distinct. You are, for example, encouraged to tap on the shoulder of someone else and grunt at him or her to get their attention.
So all of this has represented an apostolic opportunity for me but presents many challenges. I hope to face these with humility and good grace in the hope that in my mid-seventies I can still be of some religious service to others especially a community like the deaf who are not well off financially and who have been marginalized by the majority of us who do not even notice that they are all around us.