In the past week, these questions have turned up in one form or the other.
“Why didn’t you get a fully functional child instead of a deaf child?” (To his credit, the person who asked this is a 12 year old kid.)
A grown woman in her 60s asked, regarding Travis, “Oh, he’s deaf and dumb?” Sigh.
A Home Depot worker spoke to Ken. Ken, who had the two little boys with him, indicated that he was Deaf, so the worker jokingly gestured toward the boys, “How much did they cost?” then laughed, thinking he was pretty darn funny.
One of my passions is educating anyone, especially older kids and adults, about the Deaf World and now adoption, but some days, these types of comments can just rub the wrong way. Other times, I revel in the chance to enlighten someone.
Recently, as some Deaf friends and I were discussing the issue of hearing and how hearing people place so much value on hearing and speech, we had the chance to educate a hearing onlooker who didn’t have a lot of experience with the Deaf World. The onlooker indicated that she felt like we were on a high horse, putting her down for not agreeing or understanding our point of view. Thinking back over the conversation, there was no putting down, but possibly, our tone may have come across that way to her. But she or anyone else not familiar with the Deaf World would have to try understanding that the questions the general public ask get asked over and over, year after year.
Can you drive? How do you travel alone? Do you have a job? I saw this amazing video where a girl hears for the first time, did you see it? You should get one of those implants.
So, within the tight-knit Deaf community, we DO give each other knowing looks and sometimes joke about these questions, but we normally only do so with each other. When someone asks one of these or a myriad of other questions, we appreciate the opportunity to educate, and yes, even enlighten. The onlooker felt negative about the fact that we were hoping to “enlighten” her. We were. Isn’t that the beauty of open dialogue with people who aren’t like you? People who have a different perspective?
The same issue comes up regarding adoption and homeschooling. People say the darndest things! It forces me to think of times when the tables are turned and I'm looking in on a lifestyle or culture I know little about.
I remember when we began our adoption journey, I was searching for anything and everything adult adoptees had written. Let me tell you, there are some angry adoptees out there and they blog! As I read, I found myself feeling defensive. Many of them addressed fantasy-minded adoptive parents. They were addressing me! But as I read, I knew they had much to say and that I better listen. And I was enlightened. I didn’t agree with everything I set my eyes on, but I learned and continue to learn. My eyes were open to a perspective I never had considered. I learned the problems with adoptive parents telling their kids, “Your birth mom loved you so much...that’s why she gave you up.” I learned why it’s hurtful for kids to grow up hearing that they are “so lucky.” I learned that my Asian sons may not want to hear me say, “I don’t see you as Asian. I just see you as mine.” I was enlightened.
Thinking back, I’m sure I’ve said more than my fair share of ignorant comments and asked innocent, but offensive questions. When others say things that jab a little, I have to take a moment and think about where they are coming from. Most often, people are just genuinely curious and unaware. Rarely, but still sometimes, they’re plain unthoughtful or rude.
Maybe Ken and I are gluttons for punishment. When I think about it, there are many things about the Brown Seven that seem to give people (friends, family, strangers) what they think is an open invitation to question, scrutinize, criticize our lifestyle.
Size of our family. Homeschool. Multicultural adoption. Deaf/hearing, using sign language. Other family choices, such as media.
Thank God that He equips us for what He's called us to. The "equipment" I'm praying for is patience, slow anger, slow speech, and grace for others as I've been drowned in grace.