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If a Tree…

September 15, 2010

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear–does it still make a sound?

Science says that sound is created vibrations.

The pragmatic says sound is the interpretation of vibrations.

The deaf person who cannot hear cannot interpret vibration.  His perception of sound is relative.  He may physically feel vibrations.  He needs someone to interpret sound.

I cannot begin to imagine my world without sound.  I set out to learn.  I could not experience that life, but I could learn what that life was like and interpret that sound for those who cannot interpret sound.

My first experience with a deaf person was at my Church.  Her name was Karen.  I found myself at many get togethers with her.  I wanted to communicate with her.  We tried so hard.  We ended up smiling a lot at each other–but we always gravitated to each other.  She taught me what signs she could with the short bursts of time we were together.  I took a vocabulary class at my Church in Sign Language.  I wanted so much more.

Fast forward–two summers later.  My hero and I went with some teens to the Bill Rice Ranch.  During some free time-I signed up for Sign Language classes.  I had a whole week of classes.  I had a burden on my heart for deaf people.  I wanted to be able to share my love of God–I wanted to communicate all that was in my heart–and in the hearts of others.  The instructor of the class said on the last night–“Don’t just leave here saying, ‘I have completed a week of sign language–I can go home satisfied now.’  There is a reason you took this class.  There is a reason you spent a whole week learning the language of the deaf–go find that reason.”

All I had to do was to tell my hero what was on my heart.  We returned home.  My heart full–but unsure of what to do and where to go.  My hero comes home from work with a class schedule from Lansing Community College.  I thought–ok–I can do this.  I can take a college sign language class and I will be all set.

The Sign 1 classes were all full.  I needed to take a class.  If I did not take a class then, I might never take one.  I signed up for Orientation on Deafness.  My teacher was deaf.  I was scared.  What was I doing here?  I loved my teacher.  She taught me so much about terminology in a deaf world.  She showed me a bit of the world deaf people live in.  I had to read two books about deafness.  Stories, not fact books.  I was suddenly changed.  I knew I was right were I was supposed to be.

The next semester I took two sign language classes:  Sign 1 and fingerspelling.  I continued to want more.  I learned that I was in one of the top rated sign language programs in the country.  I learned how important it was to be educated.  I learned how important it was to learn of their world.  I took Sign 2 and Advanced Fingerspelling and Beginning Sign to voice.  I struggled through Advanced Fingerspelling.  I learned how many people failed that class.  I practiced and practiced.  I fingerspelled to the radio.  I fingerspelled every word of the sermon in church.  I dreamt fingerspelling.  I passed.  I took Sign 3 and Advanced Sign to Voice.  I watched videos of deaf people telling a story–I had to interpret that video.  I wanted to advance into the Interpreters Training Program.  That program is for students who have a grasp of sign language and want to go on to become Professional Sign Language Interpreters.  I passed the test and entered into the hardest year of my life.

The classes became very serious.  Each class must be passed with a 2.5 GPA.  My teacher became my mentor.  She couldn’t mentor each student.  She didn’t have to.  She had a way of making you feel like she was personally involved in every detail of your education.  She was knowledgeable-she was more than firm-but fair-she had a reputation for being tough.  She drew out of me what I wanted to keep to myself.  That is what a teacher does.  A teacher shows you what you can achieve–not what you should achieve.  If I didn’t already have a hero, she would have been it.

I completed 240 internship hours that year.  I interpreted AA meetings, Church services, business meetings, board meetings, physical therapy, at an Alzheimer care center, a boys home, college classes and plays.  I was scared most of the time and a few times I failed.  I realized I was not meant to go out into the big wide world of interpreting.  I become too attached to my clients.  That is a professional ‘no-no’–I had a hard time with that one.  I cared about these people.  I could not just interpret and leave them.

I realized my job was to interpret in Church.  I could care about the people I was working with and it was okay.  I knew the subject better than any other.  I took the State of Michigan Quality Assurance Exam.  I passed.  Not as high of a score as I wanted–but I passed.  I now had a piece of paper that said I could interpret in Church.

God has allowed me to interpret.  I cherish it.  I cherish my education.  A good interpreter knows more than just signs and fingerspelling.  A good interpreter knows that if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear–it is a waste of a good tree–because sound is a language–and my job is to interpret the sound.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rebecca permalink
    September 16, 2010 11:10 pm

    I feel like I miss so much of morning service because I am in junior church hence, the silly question….So do you interpret at FH now? Are there many deaf people that come Sunday morning?

    • September 17, 2010 12:11 pm

      I have interpreted off and on Rebecca. The last 2 weeks a hard of hearing man who needs sign language has been in the morning services. He has said he wants to bring some deaf friends. I have also heard from bus captains and others that there are several deaf people they want me to visit. It is exciting!

  2. September 17, 2010 10:22 am

    Wow! That was very interesting. I love your conclusion…if a tree falls and noone is there to hear it, it was a waste of a good tree. (I think I’ll use that in my composition class to show how to use a good intro & conclusion.)

    Also, we have a deaf lady who comes to church every now and then. Due to that and a couple of other things, I have become very interested in learning sign language. Haven’t made the plunge yet, though. Your post is very encouraging in that way, though.

    By the way, there is a kind of older TV show that I’ve seen a couple of episodes of online. It is about a deaf lady who was able to work for the F.B.I. & who even used her ability to read lips as a skill that helped the team, etc. It is a good, clean show that is now off the air. If you look @ this site, they have info on buying a DVD of the episodes. You might enjoy that.

    Thanks for this post!

    • September 17, 2010 12:16 pm

      I love Sue Thomas FBI–haven’t seen it in years–most deaf people cannot read lips like that! The percentage is at about 30 of what they see on your lips-I believe.

      I love sign language–I think your family has a gift for languages–use that–take the plunge–you will not regret it.

      There is an online sight you can go to for daily lessons and a test at the end of the lessons. You could start learning some basic vocabulary.

  3. September 18, 2010 8:30 pm

    Vonda, I always felt
    that you were an
    amazing woman with
    a special gift ~ but it
    wasn’t until this post
    that I knew exactly
    what that gift was {and
    I’m sure you have many
    more}. You put your
    heart and so many hours
    into this vocation that
    serves others. Well
    done! Thank you for
    your continued inspiration.
    xx Suzanne

  4. Anne permalink
    September 20, 2010 4:33 pm

    I remember when you started taking those classes. My girls love learning any sign language they can from anywhere they see it. I remember when you taught a class at church and then we signed Down at the Cross. I can still sign it. 🙂 I also remember seeing you after we moved to Rochester and you would sign as you talked, without even knowing it! (I have to say I love the tree analogy, too.)

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