|The ASL sign for "word"|
When I was 11, my church started a deaf ministry program and offered sign language classes to anyone who was interested. I loved learning how to sign and looked forward to Sunday mornings where I could sing the hymns with my voice and my hands, and I could hear and see the words of the sermon as they were translated.
I made new friends through the ministry. We sat together during church and sometimes met for lunch afterwards.
I surprised my neighbor by introducing myself to her elderly father. I spent many hours with him, "listening" to stories of his youth and admiring his artwork.
A year later, we moved to another state, and I fell out of the practice of signing. I still remember a few words and, of course, the alphabet, but I have forgotten most of what I learned. But I will never forget the friends who welcomed me into their silent world with jokes and laughter and songs - friends that would likely have remained silent strangers without a common language to bring us together