This I Believe

Jerry - Greensboro, North Carolina
Entered on June 7, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe in the strength and sweetness of the human spirit. As a person that worked

for many years with the children who are deaf or hard of hearing, I saw that spirit blossom and manifest itself especially in the lives of young, multihandicapped deaf children who lived most of their childhoods at a residential school for the deaf.

These children usually came to school at age five or six with almost no language and, when their “extra” handicap was Cerebral Palsy, they came without the physical ability to readily join the magic world of sign language. They came to us as innocent as puppies, trusting those of us at the school to introduce them to the world and care for them as surrogate parents. Their brains were usually normally functioning and as they watched language happen through the air, they soaked it up and gradually were able to assume enough control of one or two hands to begin to join the rest of the human race in communication.

Four of these children illustrated to me the indomnitable strength of the human spirit. First was a set of deaf twins with Cerebral Palsy who came to school so motorically involved that they couldn’t even bring a spoon or a fork to their mouths to eat. They could laugh and smile though and as they came to the cafeteria day after day they tried to fed themselves. The staff knew they needed to learn to manage this all important task themselves and as long as the twins were willing to try they let them. All of the students knew what was happening and cheered and laughed as the boys would bring a spoon to their mouths and about half the time get a mouthful of food while the other half of the time the food went sailing over their heads. They would laugh, eat, and entertain their newfound friends. By the time they left school, they could feed themselves with no problem. It wouldn’t have been pretty to watch for a stranger, but for those of us who struggled with them, it was a display of the triumph of the human spirit.

Another cerebral palsied deaf child that taught me what can be done with a pure heart and a good mind was the young man who struggled to participate in all activities at school despite his physical limitations. When I knew him, he was in high school. He was the basketball and football team manager. He was a Boy Scout and he did well in school. His signing was hard to understand when you first met him. But he was patient and taught you what he was saying. As a junior in high school he met a female deaf student who also had Cerebral Palsy who had just transferred to our school. They fell in love and graduated together. When they walked across the stage, the whole audience stood and cheered and clapped and waved their hands in the air (deaf clapping). The human spirit marched across that stage that day and I believe it is there in all of us.