Our Signs of Friendship

    “Our Signs of Friendship,” Ensign, July 2000, 61

    Our Signs of Friendship

    Until Tracy moved into the neighborhood, I had never associated with a person who had a hearing impairment. She had four children, and she was in the process of getting divorced. My first encounter with her was when I accompanied a youth group to help clean up her yard soon after she moved in.

    When I approached Tracy for some instructions, I did not know how we would communicate. I talked slowly in the hope that she could read my lips, and when she responded in deep, broken tones, I turned to her oldest daughter for an interpretation. But Tracy gently turned my face back toward her and motioned for me to watch her carefully. With effort, we were able to communicate.

    A few days later, Tracy’s son knocked on my door and said his mother would like me to come over so she could talk to me. When I arrived at her house, she took me by the arm and led me to the sofa. Then she sat beside me and showed me a book about sign language. She turned to several different pages and indicated she wanted me to ask her questions using the signs.

    We communicated this way for about an hour. Tracy’s warmth and friendliness penetrated my uncertainty, and I was impressed with how her children—including the two-year-old—could communicate using signs. From that time on, our friendship grew stronger. Tracy often visited our home, and she taught my other family members how to communicate with her. If we turned to her children for help, she would remind us that we needed to pay close attention to her.

    Tracy taught me her greatest lesson on the Sunday she was called as secretary to the Sunday School presidency. When she took her place on the stand with the other presidency members, I expected she would have someone else speak her testimony for her. When her turn came, I was surprised to see her arise and stand before the microphone. Everyone looked at her, not knowing what to expect. As she spoke in what may have seemed like barely understandable monotones to those not accustomed to hearing her, a powerful feeling permeated the chapel. She spoke with a spirit that needed no interpretation.

    I am grateful for this beautiful woman who helped me, my family, and many others see how a challenge such as a hearing impairment can be dealt with and made into a positive growing experience.

    • Sharon Barber is a member of the Maplewood Ward, Syracuse Utah South Stake.

    Illustrated by Robert Anderson McKay