Posts Tagged volunteer
You may recall my recent post Deaf Helping Deaf where I spoke of an amazing opportunity I experienced in volunteering with the St. Louis United Way at the St. Joseph’s Institute for the Deaf. Shortly after that publishing that post, my employer heard the good news and wanted to share it with the rest of the company.
It’s not part of my normal duties to engage in public speaking, so when the Manager of Community Affairs reached out to me and asked that I speak in front of the entire St. Louis based company, needless to say, I was a little nervous. When I asked, “What should I say?”, she simply replied with “Speak from your heart and talk about what you wrote.”
So I did.
I can tell you that throughout the 10 minute long speech, I continued to be nervous, but the outpouring of positive comments afterward made me feel so wonderful. Many people that were not able to hear the speech had hoped it was recorded so they could see what everyone was talking about. After jumping through some corporate compliance hoops, I was finally able to get a copy of the speech to be made public. Below is the video.
Allow me to preface your viewing by saying that my speech should not be your focus, but rather let the message be your catalyst for diving into your community’s needs and helping where you can.
This morning, I was driving east bound on I-70 and had just crossed the Blanchette Memorial Bridge when traffic abruptly came to a screeching halt. Cars were swerving to the left and right. I could see a clearing ahead, where there were only 2 cars parked in the center 2 lanes. Of course, my first thought was, “What are these nut jobs doing!!??”. However, as I got closer, it became rather apparent that these were no nut jobs. These were men of honor, fulfilling a sense of civil humanity that their counter-part weekend drivers did not share. These 2 men, with what appeared to be their lady friends in the passenger seat of their vehicles, had purposely parked their cars to block 2 lanes so they could clean up a mess of construction equipment, debris and other truck bed trinkets that had fallen out of a moving truck. Even such equipment as a wheelbarrow. How could you not know that a wheel barrel flew out of your truck!?
I digress. I pulled up behind these 2 cars thinking, I could reciprocate the responsibility, but they were just finishing. As they ran to their cars and sped off, one continued on I-70 east bound and the other took I-270. This trash that they moved, was just thrown to the side of the road. These few bits of information led me to the conclusion that A) they had nothing to do with the trash and B) they didn’t even know each other.
These 2 gentlemen put their lives at risk in order to ensure that no one else would get injured from hitting such large debris scattered across the highway. Some would argue that it wasn’t their job and the risk was too great; maybe they should have called a MO-DOT official…who knows. What I do know is that I found great respect for them and once again humanity redeemed itself, just a little bit more.
It was never in my life plan to become a humanitarian or philanthropist. I generally keep myself concerned with my kids, where we live, that we have food on the table and that I have a job to support those things. There’s no time to think about other people or their needs. It’s easier just to write a check and say, “Here, go get what you need”. Right? I know I’m right, because millions of Americans do it every day. Not because we’re lazy – well, maybe some of us – but because there’s a social acceptance of selfish behavior. Selfish behavior. Seems so harsh when you say it like that doesn’t it? That’s what it is though; when you think of no one but yourself, and put aside simple tasks to help others because it’s not convenient for you, that’s selfish behavior.
Allow me to preface this blog by saying, I am among the masses. I in no way point the blame finger toward anyone in particular but am merely making an observation based on my own experience of an epiphany I had today while doing volunteer work for the United Way (sponsored by my employer SAVVIS, Inc.). You see, I volunteered to spend a day working with deaf children and completing some maintenance tasks around the campus at St. Joseph’s Institute For The Deaf. When asked about this opportunity, I was given a long list of very noble and worthy charitable organizations of which I could spend a day working. I chose the institute though, for obvious reasons. Yes, I’m deaf. Not the kind of deaf you’re thinking of where sign language is used, but I do have a profound hearing loss (can not hear below 95dB level) that requires me to wear 2 very powerful BTE (behind the ear) hearing aids. Without them, I’m useless as tits on a boar hog.
Going in this morning, I conjured up an emotion worthy of the visit and pumped my chest out as if to warrant the over prideful attitude I was conveying. “Hey look at me. I’m a do-gooder. I’m being charitable and giving to those in need.”
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.
As my group of coworkers and I stood at the front of the cafeteria, waiting to serve breakfast to these audibly challenged youngsters, they began to walk in..and it hit me. All of the sudden. These were children with deafness and hearing loss JUST LIKE ME! Except, I’m an adult. I’ve had 34 years to get used to this. I’ve had 34 years to overcome the daily pain of not being able to enjoy the simple sounds of rain drops on the glass or the dog’s nails chattering on the hard wood floor as she walks. Sure, with the help of aids, I can hear many of those sounds and I can recognize them now. But what if you’ve NEVER heard what an airplane sounds like as it passes over by. What if you never heard the sound of water raging through a stream. I was one of these children, a long time ago. But I didn’t have modern technology. I had my family, my mom and my dad, supporting me, taking me to every single doctor they could to get me treated. I so badly wanted to wrap my arms around each and every one of these children and let them know, “It’s going to be ok. It will be hard some days and you’ll often want to cry. It’s ok though. Cry. But push through that pain and that frustration, and realize that you can be whoever you want to be. One day, you’ll be an adult, and you’ll be living in mainstream America just like any other citizen in this country. You CAN overcome this!”
I had the honor of sitting with some amazing children this morning. We spoke of our likes and dislikes. We spoke about my daughters and our pets. I asked them about their favorite things, like colors and music and activities. My heart felt so at peace and at home with these children. They all pointed at my aids and wanted to know, “Mr. Dave, why do you have implants?” Many of these children have cochlear implants and they look very similar to hearing aids. I was so proud to tell my story to them. I was proud to tell them what I’ve been through and how my life completely rocks in spite of my deafness. Their faces lit up, like bright beams of sun, all with the hope I believe I filled them with.
Through the rest of the day, I worked along side my coworkers cleaning windows, moving trash, picking up wood scraps and moving them, pulling weeds and spreading mulch. Each time as I would walk through the halls, one of those children from that first class would see me, and they’d get this giant smile on their face and wave at me. I of course reciprocated with a wave and smile.
What did I learn today? I learned something that my old friend and pastor Jeff Mannel taught me years ago. God didn’t put me on this planet to suffer with deafness. No, he put me on this planet to live with deafness so that I could endure the pain, overcome the frustration and one day help others do the same. My mom always told me there was nothing different about me compared to other kids, except that I was more special. She was right. I am special. And so are you. You have something in your heart, your life, your past, that you can use to help change the lives of others in a positive way. There is no reward for being born free of anguish, but out of suffering endured, you can help others live free of anguish.