I've learned to get by with lip reading, but phone conversations have long been a source of anxiety for me. My mouth goes dry and my mind goes blank. When masks became a regular thing, I did not expect the physical stress it would cause me not to see other people’s lips. I would literally feel myself tensing when someone with a mask would try to talk to me. The words, already so hard for me to understand, would be all muffled and impossible to decipher.
People are not always considerate about it. When I have to mention on a business call that I’m hard of hearing, some make no effort to raise their voice. I'm left frustrated and confused and ready to end the call before I even get what I need. Others—even friends and family—show their impatience at having to repeat something once, twice, or even three times. Sometimes I catch them rolling their eyes or sighing. It hurts, I won’t deny it. I feel like a bother. And it’s frustrating to always feel like I’m missing something.
I don't say all that to complain or make you pity me. I don't need that! I've learned to adapt and I'm getting better at using the phone. Thanks to a family friend, I was able to get hearing aids after years of going without. The new ones I've just received have made a real difference. I embrace my differences and use my disability to show compassion to others who may struggle with an imperfection or flaw. I try to take what I've learned and pass it on to others.
But I also want to speak to you about kindness and consideration. If you think about it, the majority of us have something we struggle with. Hearing loss. Arthritis. Learning disorders. Anxiety. Vision impairment. Mental disorders. Heart problems. The list goes on and on. Our bodies are imperfect, prone to failing us. No one has a perfectly working body. That will only come when we finally step into Heaven. Which means some people will have special needs. Some might need a little extra help or patience or consideration. But we all feel just as deeply as the healthy ones.
Words can hurt, but so can facial expressions and actions. So, next time you encounter someone who may not be able to do something as well as you, slow down just a bit and consider their hearts and feelings.
I have learned that just because someone has a disability--even one much more profound than mine--it doesn't have to limit them. My heroes are Sue Thomas and Deanne Bray. Both ladies are completely deaf but lead full, active lives. Sue is a motivational speaker and continues to inspire others as she faces multiple sclerosis and now cancer. (Please keep this dear woman in your prayers.) Deanne is a busy actress and starred in one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye. She is bilingual in ASL and English. Both ladies are able to communicate with both the deaf and the hearing with sign language, lip reading, and speaking. In my mind, if they can accomplish so much, who am I to complain about my partial hearing loss?
God has a purpose for each of us, even if we are flawed. Even if He chooses to give us a weakness to live with. It could be that we are put in this place to be an encouragement for someone else, like Sue and Deanna were for me. It could be that He has something He wants us to learn or accomplish. We may never know His intention. But if we trust in Him and live in expectancy, He will do beautiful and amazing things through us--no matter our disability or differences or difficulties.
So, be kind and considerate to others. Show God's love through your life and actions. They might be really struggling and feeling discouraged. You never know what God wants to do in someone else's life. And you never know when you might be the one hoping for someone to show kindness and respect and consideration.
In His Grip!