On a recent scouting trip in the villages near Zamora, I repeated my question for the third time, “Do you know any deaf people that live in the area?”
The mother stared awkwardly at the father. The father stared stearnly at the mother. And the dozen or so children outside the house simultaneously gazed quickly at a shy young woman that sat awkwardly in the outdoor cooking area in a broken plastic chair. In that moment I knew she was deaf. Without an answer I explained that the 3 other people with me (the Signs of Love staff) were also deaf. The father continued to glare at me, uncertain of what this gringa might want with his daughter. The mothers face softened as she met for the first time someone like her daughter.
As I walked over to the young woman, she didn’t rise from the chair nor did her eyes rise to meet mine. As she shifted, her deformed foot that caused her to walk with a significant limp slipped out from under her skirt and her eyes slipped past the shame and looked at mine. You could tell she hadn’t been looked with love very often. I slipped a pink bracelet onto her wrist, making the rest of the children jealous, probably for the first time of something special that she had. They had no idea how truly special she was inside.
As we left, I handed a calendar for our next language program to the mom and the dad reassured me that she probably wouldn’t be able to make it. Two weeks later when we passed by her house for the monthly program, the van already half full of other deaf young adults, Diani, and her sister-in-law were dressed in their best skirts, the pink bracelet, and the biggest smile. She had no idea what she was about to experience but it was going to be life changing.