Every year at Christmastime, to my great pleasure, my wife gives me a puzzle-a-day calendar. Recently, one of the puzzles substituted each word in a familiar proverb with a rhyming word. The puzzle was to guess the proverb. For example, “Many guys sound ghoulish,” becomes “Penny wise, pound foolish.” Another was “Sniff a true wit’s bare pit.” Know the proverb? I’ll tell you the answer at the end of this post.
This silly sentence got me thinking about hearing loss. Not long ago, a friend of mine had dental surgery. A few days afterwards, I asked him, “How’s your healing?” He proceeded to tell me about his hearing aids. I had said “healing” but he heard “hearing.” It didn’t take long to get the confusion cleared up.
A man from a church I served had quite severe hearing loss. He didn’t try to learn to read lips, and his hearing aids didn’t help much. He just withdrew – from his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and friends. He was very unhappy. He helped me realize that for most of us hearing is crucial to relationships.
On the other hand, a young woman at the karate school my son and I attend has quite severe hearing loss too. But she works, she goes to karate (and typically takes first or second place in sparring tournaments), she volunteers at her church. She lives a full life as far as I can see. When I talk to her, I always make sure I speak clearly, look directly at her when I speak, and get her attention before I speak. Then we can communicate just fine. We have a relationship.
I’m not saying that this young woman is a better person than the older man. They were in very different situations in life. As far as I know, she had never had full hearing, so she didn’t know the pain of the loss the way the older man grieved his hearing loss. She had learned to adapt, and clearly she must have had people in her life who helped her with that adaptation. Her life was much richer as a result.
Last week, I showed a video at my work about the importance of including people with disabilities in the life of the church. Sadly, technical problems resulted in all loss of the sound about three-fourths of the way through the film. As the tech people sweated to get the sound working again, I reminded the audience that all of us in church must think broadly about our own communication. Are we producing materials that are accessible to people with hearing or visual impairments? Are we providing copies of sermon manuscripts to people with hearing loss in church? Do our videos in church provide audible narration for people with visual impairments? Do we provide large print materials? Do we tell people that they may request Braille or signed language interpretation?
In short, do we apply the Golden Rule that our Lord taught us? Since all of us want to stay connected in our relationships and in our worship, we need to do all we can to keep others connected as well.
Still wondering about the proverb that titles my post? If the shoe fits, wear it.