You know, I never put cotton in my ears.
It’s something people suggest you do to experience a little of what people who are deaf/hh experience on a daily basis… an exercise in empathy to walk in their shoes and live for just a moment with diminished hearing. I heard about this when my son was first diagnosed but I never tried it.
Maybe I should have.
Yesterday, I went to work and was around people for the first time with all of us wearing masks. It was amazing to be there. I had missed it. I had missed people. And at first, it was okay. I spoke with one person in the quiet indoors, and I could understand them relatively well. Then, I moved into the hallway with the added noises of air conditioning and feet on linoleum and spoke with a few people… it was a little harder but I understood 90%. Then, I moved outdoors near a noisy street, six feet apart from my neighbor, and all of us wearing masks.
And I lost all comprehension.
I found myself asking people to repeat themselves, and then… embarrassed at the regularity of the ask… at some point I just stopped and nodded, pretending that I understood. I lost over 50% of interactions so quickly.
It was like I had cotton in my ears… but instead, I just had a mask over my face.
For a brief moment, but only a moment, I was in my son’s shoes… kind of. But truthfully, I will never be in his shoes. Even if I lose my hearing now or when I’m older, I will never understand how he felt as a child learning to speak, to read, to make friends and to understand the world with ears different than my own.
But I can listen to him. I can honor his feelings and learn from him. I can also research, read, do the work and help him find and use his own voice because I love him and because I care.
Because I love him.
And because I care.
“Love one another as I have loved you.” This is what Jesus commanded us in the Gospels but notice He didn’t put any qualifiers of who “one another” was… because He didn’t qualify His love.
Because we love them.
Because we care.
Not just my child. Every child. Particularly those who need us the most right now.
This is my prayer today.