Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Little Taste of Heaven

On Sunday I had the opportunity to attend a conference on including people with disabilities in the life of the church. It shouldn't really surprise anyone who knows me well that I was excited for this conference.  In addition to attending as a participant, I had been asked to help lead the worship service at the end.  The people in charge of the communion service thought it would be neat if I signed along with the songs from the front (instead of from my seat like I usually do) and if I signed the communion liturgy. They got me a copy of the songs and liturgy ahead of time and I was set to go.
I got a ride to the conference with a professor, who was also leading worship and facilitating a workshop and we arrived early to set things up for worship.  While we were standing at the front of the sanctuary, figuring out where things were going to work best, someone asked if I was the interpreter.  I said no and that I couldn't hear well enough or sign well enough to be an interpreter, but I'd be signing some during the worship service at the end of the conference.
A few moments later the person who had asked if I was the interpreter came back with two more people.  She introduced them to me, Y and A.  At first I didn't know why these introductions were being made.  The names didn't sound at all familiar to me.  Then I saw Y signing.  Y was the interpreter and A had a profound hearing loss. The three of us starting talking/signing.  We talked about ASL.  We talked about hearing loss.  We talked about which workshops we would be attending.  We worked out a method for team interpreting the worship service.
Y asked me if I had an interpreter for school. I told her I didn't.  She asked why not.  I told her that although I sometimes thought it would be helpful (even on a good hearing day, I can process visual input way easier than auditory input), I didn't think my sign was good enough for it to be truly beneficial. Afterall, I use ASL signs in an English word order. I haven't had enough instruction to learn the ASL syntax, and most the time I'm not with people who care.  I told her that I usually get by reading lips and hearing what I can.
She wasn't overly satisfied with my answer and kept pushing.  She told me about a type of interpreting where the interpreter uses ASL signs in English word order and puts everything on his/her lips as well.  I think she called it transliteration. (I may have made that word up, I'm not sure).  I listened (with both my eyes and ears), but didn't put too much on it.  The conference started and Y interpreted most of the opening announcements and introductions.  A and I watched and I realized that Y was signing in English word order (for the most part) and putting everything on her lips. I understood exactly what was going on, except for the name of one person, but Y told us she didn't catch it either. :)
We divided for workshops.  Y and A were in one workshop and I was in another.  The workshop was great and I got to talk some about inclusion for people with hearing loss and processing disorders.  After workshops we came back together for the communion service.  Y and I took turns interpreting.  I signed the songs and the liturgies that I had practiced ahead of time, Y signed everything else.  As part of the service, conference participants got to share what they learned, popcorn style.  I was sitting at the front of the room, with my back to everyone else and it was a rather large room.  I knew this part was coming and had kind of resigned myself to not knowing what people were saying.  That was before I knew Y was going to be there. Y interpreted everything everyone said.  I "heard" every word.  I felt like I was in heaven.  The entire worship service, I knew what was going on.  I had been able to follow everything and my brain was exhausted from trying to figure out sounds.  I don't remember the last time that happened.
On the way home, I thought more about what Y had said about getting an interpreter for classes, but continued to brush it off.  Then I went to classes yesterday. One class in particular, I struggled to follow what was going on.  The professor, I've been told, tends to mumble.  I just know his lips are very hard to read and he likes to talk to the white board.  There was some lively discussion during class, but by the time I located the speaker, they were half done and I'd missed it. I left class feeling like I wished I'd had an interpreter like Y to put it all in a form that I could understand.
I still don't know if I'm going to pursue getting an interpreter, but it's a thought tucked in the back of my mind. Having worship interpreted in a form I could understand, was a little taste of heaven for me.  Someday, when I get to heaven, I'll be able to understand worship all the time, and that is going to be a good, good day.

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