So, today, a woman came into our shop. It was a woman I’ve only heard my parents refer to as ‘the Deaf Lady’. My mum had told her about me, explained that I was doing Sign Language, and come to find me on a day she knew I was working.
But today, she didn’t need her lawnmower repaired. In fact, she hadn’t touched it since it had been, and as far as she knew everything was fine.
She’d come in to sign to me.
She waved hello, and instantly explained that my mum had told her I would be in today. I asked her how she was, and the smile that she had on her face was the biggest I’ve ever seen.
And we spent about an hour in my family’s little shop, talking about everything. She told me about her life, about how she’d lived in the same house for 60 years.
She’d been born deaf, and been a Brownie, but never a Guide, because of the War… she’s now 86.
She had some amazing stories to tell, and twice she cried. One of those times was remembering her youth, and the other was when she was explaining to me that her husband had died around 20 years ago, and how he’d been the last person she’d known that could communicate with her.
She’s been alone for 20 years, living in a silent world, unable to communicate with anyone for the most part. The most interaction she has is when she writes things down for people, but she’s struggled to make any recent friends, and her family is long gone.
Now someone explain to me what’s wrong with every school teaching a certain amount of Sign Language, and for colleges to offer it more freely and frequently. People should be encouraged to learn BSL, because otherwise we’re cutting ourselves off from talking to around 8 million people or so (in the UK alone).
That’s millions of people who are no less important than you are, who have their own stories to tell, and the same need for communication as anyone else on this tiny little planet.
J. cried today because it was the first time for a long time that anyone has asked her for her name, or listened to her stories.
She’s also coming back into work tomorrow, to sign with me, and help me practice. But also – because we’re only human – for the company.
Wow. Heart-warming and -breaking at the very same time!