The Joy of Learning and Giving
My younger brother was diagnosed as profoundly hearing impaired shortly after his second birthday. As a four-year-old, I could not possibly understand the ramifications of the diagnosis. I have been told that I showed little concern about the situation until one night at the table when I asked how long he would have to wear his hearing aids. I became nearly hysterical when I learned that the hearing aids would not heal his hearing. What I also did not understand was the effect this would have on my life. I now know my brother's hearing impairment helped shape the traits of patience and compassion in my life.
Having a hearing impaired family member is difficult. Instead of saying things once, I often have to repeat myself several times. I learned at a young age to be patient when he did not hear me the first or even the second time. I learned to extend that patience to those who did not understand his limitations: my parents tell me I soon learned to respond to questions about his hearing aid like a helpful guide. I not only learned patience, but I developed a deep sense of compassion and understanding for others.
Living with my brother's disability taught me to look beyond the differences in others and to discover the similarities we share. Even now I will often be the first to reach out to the new student or the kid who is different. In middle school, I was part of a club called Special Friends, which visited our "special friends" bi-weekly in a convalescent hospital. Judy, my very special friend, was a stroke victim who spoke slowly and with great difficulty. After Judy passed away, I came across several things she had given me: a coral necklace she had purchased in memory of her daughter, graduation cards, and several pictures. Through...