"Zims, what's wrong with your people?", I asked an unexpecting Heather Zimmerman a few days ago. "My people, who are my people, Nita?", she responds. "Hearing people", I reply. I then recount the story which happened literally no more than a minute or 2 before I called her.
It was Saturday, March 31st and I had just finished volunteering with 3 friends at the 6th annual National Walk for Epilepsy which took place on the National Mall. Michai is the one I know least well. I have only actually met her a few times. She is a big Louisville fan and was no doubt devastated when they lost to arch rival Kentucky that night in the NCAA Final Four. She even got a cardinal painted on her face at the walk. Next up is Heather Suhr or the Crazy Golfer Chick as I prefer to call her. Her interests include: sharing the Gospel with primarily the underserved Deaf Community, Teddy time, and defending golf as a "sport". She claims she doesn't talk trash, but has threatened me with her golf clubs on more than one occasion. (Check out her comment on my "Beginnings" post.) Gotta say, I LOVE eliciting that response from her! Last, but not least is Asia. She is the Cool Crazy Chica or just Chica for short. (Ok, so I've got a thing for nicknames.) I can't believe I met this chick for the first time just over 3 weeks ago. I find myself constantly using the word "AWESOME" in reference to her. She's incredibly sensitive and a very talented artist. She was heartbroken earlier that day when I told her not to worry about coming after she woke up late. I thought it may not be worth it at that point and didn't want her to feel like she disappointed me. She texted Zims who then called me saying Asia was really upset and wanted to come. So, I texted her and told her to come on. Good thing she texted Zims!!
So we had just turned left past Union Station near the taxi line when I saw a man I recognized on the other side of the street walking in the opposite direction. He said, "I didn't know you deal with those kind of people." I knew EXACTLY what he meant, but I asked, "What kind of people"? He said, "deaf people". (I guess this was the first time he saw me sign.) I said, "They're my friends." He said, "That's good, though." I'm not sure if he was trying to save face or pat me on the back. Maybe both. Regardless of my ASL skills (or lack thereof) and my understanding of Deaf Culture (even less), it's only natural for me to hang out with signers. Everyone I invited to volunteer that day is a signer. Even more so than my passion to build bridges between hearing and Deaf people, I invited signers because they are my FRIENDS! This is the story I related to Zims minus the descriptions when I asked her what's wrong with her people?
When this guy saw us signing and said he didn't know I "deal with those kind of people", it would be like telling a baller, "I didn't know you deal with athletes." I don't "deal with" them for one. They are my friends. For two, they are not "those kind of people". Yes, they are all deaf. But I love them for who they are, not because or despite the fact that they are deaf!
Zims was, of course, taken back a bit by my asking her what's wrong with her people and saying her people are hearing people. She said the only hearing person she knows is me. I think she was taking a jab at me saying I was "culturally hearing" on the sly. Anyway, my point, and yes I DO actually have one, is that what is usually meant as a compliment to me for my involvement with the Deaf Community (or really mostly just hangin with my friends) is usually a slap in the face to deaf people. And worst of all, they may not even realize it at the time!!!