I have a great friend who so kindly welcomes me to his home frequently enough where I have gotten to know his entire family. Since my profound hearing loss, this is a family who has “taken me in” so to speak, and I value our time together. My friend (the “Dad”) has been a true inspiration and “Coach” to me. He has kindly guided me with my running (which helps my balance). I take diet and other exercise tips from him too (sometimes!). He participates in triathlons, exercises regularly and is a great role model for me for good health and, more impressively, as a great Dad. He’s a lucky man too– nice home life, good job, beautiful wife, four wonderful kids, and a new one on the way!
Every time I visit I feel welcomed as if they were my family too. That’s nice. And one of the most charming characters in this fine brood is my Buddy’s nine-year-old son. His name is Sean. He’s funny, expressive and smart as a whip. During my most recent visit, young Sean mentioned that he wanted to learn sign language. His Dad finger spells a little to better communicate with me and Sean wanted in on the party. So I began to teach him the alphabet in ASL. Here’s a kid that, like most energetic bright children, bounces off the walls from one fun escapade to another, talking all the while with everyone about everything and just having a grand time being a kid.
Such youthful play usually has the side affect of short attention, especially regarding learning something of structure just when the school year ended and a nine year old boy is finally free! But not Sean. He sat with me in the family room and learned every letter of the ASL alphabet in one sitting. First we did “A, B, C, D”, then repeated the sign. Then overlapped a little, “D, E, F, G”, practiced more, “F, G, H, I, J” and repeated the process from A to Z. Within a half hour this terrific kid could finger spell the entire ASL alphabet. In contrast, I took three, 3-hour classes before nailing down the alphabet and my Buddy (Sean’s Dad) has been working on it for a few months and still mixes up his “Gs” and “Hs”!
But the moral of the story for me, was not just about Sean’s unusually quick acumen. No. No. The story here, as the book says, is about the “Joy of Signing.” I had a blast with this kid. My time with Sean in my buddy’s family room was the highlight of my week (no, make that my month). And, Sean renewed my own interest in learning to master ASL so I can use it the way it is designed to be used: NOT to just help me understand others; but for me to connect with the joy of signing and the joy of children and the joy of life. Thank you Sean. You are the great “Sign” of your times. Nine Year Old Kids Rule!