Quiet compassion

This fourth of July we were invited for a second year in a row to go with friends to their family reunion at the family’s farm/ranch outside Grants, New Mexico.  I have to say that this family represents the kind of accepting and down right Christian people I think the world needs more of.  Let me explain.

Many years ago, when the patriarch and matriarch were young veterinarians just out of school, they landed in this small town west of Albuquerque and set up shop – the husband dealing with large animals, and the wife handling the small ones.  As life progressed, kids joined the scene as they often tend to do.  If life weren’t already interesting enough for this small-town family, two of the brothers destined to join this family decided they couldn’t handle being separated, so they arrived together as twins.  Unfortunately, when he was very young, one of the brothers contracted a severe case of influenza that crossed the blood-brain barrier and caused severe encephalitis.  It was by no means certain that the twins would grow up together in this life, and the sick son’s future was precarious for quite some time.  After a long time in a coma, he recovered; but the sickness had destroyed the area in his brain that processes signals from the ears.  He was deaf.  Profoundly deaf.

For the next several years, the matriarch would pack the kids in the car every day and drive over an hour away to take her son to the deaf school in Albuquerque while the other kids played at parks or learned sign language along with their brother.  Our friend still remembers these almost daily trips and heroic efforts her Mom made.  It was a great sacrifice for all involved, but it was one they all made.

Over the course of the next several years, the son began attending in-residence school and only came home on the weekends.  It was a necessary evil as far as the family were concerned, but one that had to be endured none the less.  One side effect of this transition was that while he was at school, the deaf son made friends with several other students who’s families had effectively, if not explicitly, abandoned them.  Rather than leave them alone at the school, they were invited to join the family, and several began coming out to Grands on weekends rather than sit lonely at school.

I met several of these fine people last year when we first attended one of these family reunions.  They were all described to me as being “my son” by a rather proud adoptive father.  The family had opened their hearts and home to entire families who were otherwise marginalized or excluded from their rightful place in society.  What a neat bunch of people, and what a great experience at a time when I was struggling to see the good in the world.

As I talked with the family over this last trip, I was shocked to learn that many hearing families of deaf children refuse to learn sign language.  Even worse, they often completely abandon their deaf family members to social workers and deaf schools.  This family was a shining exception to this awful reality.  Everyone learned sign, and everyone (hearing and deaf) were made to feel important and a part of whatever was going on.  In fact, I was among the few outsiders there who needed an interpreter (they were happy to interpret for me when needed).  All around me there were animated silent conversations between friends and family.

I am impressed by the kindness and genuine love this family has for those who the rest of society have basically written off.  At a time when the world seems very self centered, unkind, and intolerant; I find hope in the quiet goodness of people like my friends and their family.  I hope they see in me a portion of what I see in them.

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