Their eyes danced with joy . . .
Three young men entered a restaurant and sat at a table right in front of the booth where I sat. My first reaction was that I wished they’d sit elsewhere for it was obvious they were deaf and as a result, also mute.
Where could I look? I didn’t want to stare at them, but how could I avoid it?
I needn’t have worried, for they had no problem at all in meeting my eyes and couldn’t have cared less if I looked at them or if I didn’t. They were quite content with themselves and what they were doing.
They were three of the happiest people I’ve seen in a long time and were having a most animated conversation. Arms and hands were moving, heads were tossed back in laughter and their eyes danced with joy.
I still tried not to look at them, but not for the foolish reason of “don’t stare at a handicapped person.” No, I could hardly keep my eyes off them because they were so utterly unmarked by what is commonly termed a handicap.
To put it mildly, they were the most ‘awake’ people in the whole room. And everyone there was watching them in wonder, for very obviously they were having a great time, and didn’t care who knew it.
My first thought of “Oh, you poor things, how much of life you are missing,” soon changed to thoughts of “how much they had that I didn’t.” In more than one way, they got far more out of life during that noontime hour than I did. Yet, in the eyes of the world, I was the lucky one and they would be classified as the unfortunates.
Now, I’m sure they have had a lot of bumps and hard knocks, in learning how to cope in a hearing world, when that gift was denied them. But, no matter how they had struggled to learn, they were now on top of those struggles and using the other senses far beyond what we ‘normal’ ones were. They were showing me limits I had not dreamed of.
They laughed. They joked. They talked. No, not verbally, but hands, arms and fingers flew. They reached, they gestured, and it was a three-sided give-and–take, probably more than if they had been speaking, because at the table in the middle of the room they could sit so they could easily see each other, and the ‘talking arms’, had plenty of room to ‘speak’.
One, a most beautiful black man, threw his head back in a great big laugh and the other two grinned and shared his enjoyment. It made me want I could to go over and ask them to let me in on their fun.
But at the same time, I absolutely knew that some of their laughter was over my, and everyone else’s, expense over our reactions, but that was all right. That’s exactly what we all deserved for even daring to think ‘oh, you poor young men.’ How senseless of me.
They gave their orders quite capably and casually, to the waitress, writing on a small notebook what they couldn’t make known otherwise, and then visited while waiting for their meals.
I glanced around the room and everyone was doing exactly the same as I. Not actually staring, but just the same, keenly aware and not missing one bit of those men’s every movement.
I marveled. There was none of that ‘hiding in a side booth’, or none of ‘let’s not talk and perhaps no one will notice us’.
Nope, they chose a table in the middle of the room and paid not one bit of attention to anyone, yet not trying to ignore people, either.
As I left, I asked the clerk, if they came in often, and she said, yes, and that they were always the same delight to watch and wait on.
There I was, one of a room full people ready to kindly look aside with pity, at three handicapped people, and ended up wondering who was handicapped.
Those three men might have once been thought of as such, but they had learned to live, and I mean really Live . . . which was different than most others, but, let me tell you, and I hope they see these words and know how much joy and admiration they brought to one seemingly uninterested bystander. Me.
I would never choose to have myself or one of mine, to be born with the lack of hearing and its twin, being mute, but that noon time hour taught me a lot of how we judge people before really finding out exactly what it is we’re judging. Or if there really is anything to judge.