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The Deaf Way II
Reader: Perspectives from the Second International Conference on Deaf Culture|
Ceil Lucas, Editor
Part One: Advocacy and Community Development
Changing the World—Together
I know a story about an eight-year old child, a little boy, who had an experience with his parents, his father in particular. He had a deaf mother and a deaf father, and a brother and sister who were also deaf. This eight-year old boy loved his father very much and hoped some day he would be able to be just like his father and be a farmer. His father worked hard in the fields every day, and the son was thrilled at the thought that someday he would follow in his father’s footsteps and run the family farm. The eight-year-old boy watched one day as a storm passed through and destroyed the crops and some of the buildings. The insurance did not cover the damages, and so the father took the young son with him to the bank to see what could be done. The father wrote back and forth to the banker explaining what had happened to this farm and his crops and the need for additional funding so they could continue operating the farm. The little boy watched all of this as they communicated back and forth via paper and pen. The banker said, “I don’t know if we can loan you any money; we don’t feel that a deaf person has the ability to run a farm. I suggest that you look at other options.” But there were no other financial options or sources, and so they were forced to auction off their possessions.
The day of the auction was probably one of the saddest days of the boy’s life. He saw piece by piece—the cultivator, the tractor, the livestock—being sold until nothing was left. This little eight-year-old boy saw the family lose the farm. They had to relocate to town, and the father became a carpenter, but he was not happy. His father passed away when the boy was twelve, and this boy never forgot what his father went through, how his deafness was looked down upon, and how his mother had to take care of the family. He graduated from the South Dakota School for the Deaf, and as he was growing up he wondered if he would ever have his own farm. He would have been proud to be a farmer, but that was not meant to be.
This boy later went to Gallaudet University, and when he came back to his home, he worked at a meatpacking plant. He remembered the passion that his father had; he saw the things that his father tried to accomplish and the frustration that resulted because of stereotypes, attitudes, discrimination, and oppression. This led the boy to work with the deaf community to change that from happening to others. He saw so many other deaf individuals who went through life experiencing frustrations because of barriers and limited opportunities. They were not given the chance as others often are. That little eight-year old boy was me. I learned at a young age the realities of deafness and was instilled with the passion to change things for the better. That passion in that eight-year-old old boy is still burning today. It has never gone out.