Have you ever hit that sensation that you’re actually…you know…in the right?
I know, it frightens me as well. It’s that moment where you’re just kind of flying by the seat of your pants, but in the end you’re exactly where you need to be.
This happened a few weeks ago, and I’ve been meaning to get it on here, but…I keep forgetting.
Here is a truth:
I love the deaf community.
I have no members in my family who are hard of hearing, and my hearing surpasses the average human [ask MC]. There is no significant, personal connection with the deaf community, except one; Subway.
It was April of 2004, it was a cloudy spring day. I was heading north to ‘train’ on how to become a sandwich artist in this small Subway located along the interstate. I had washed up, put my gloves on, was in my green polo and was ready to make my first sandwich. This mid-30 year old man walked up and I did what I was supposed to, “Hi! Welcome to Subway!”
He just stared at me, giant smile across his face. That’s when he made this motion with his hand near his ear. I’m no genius, but you quickly realized; he was completely deaf. So, for the next five minutes we played the pointing game along the sandwich unit, and the sweetest guy on earth left with his six inch chicken teriyaki on Italian herb and cheese bread with a smile on his face; bigger then what he came in with.
I started to make it a mission to locate people who were deaf, I was just entranced by how they conducted themselves, how they interacted, their hand movements and their facial recognition. I met those who could read lips, had some hear percentage left, those who lost it in an accident, those who were born without it. I surrounded myself in the culture, it stayed with me through college. While I spent years without meeting someone who was deaf, each time I did; the results were the same. This included training a high school student, who would later become a friend of mine, at Subway; 100% hearing loss in one year, 95% in the other. We make it work, and now she is studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology, learning how to become a sign language instructor.
I know that like any other human there are those who may just be a bit more on the irritable side of life, but overwhelming the generosity and kindness was just so warming that I never wanted to leave the environment.
When I got married in 2010 I spoke my wife at the time about my desire to work with the deaf community, it was just the people I loved to be around the most. She agreed, and within her parents church I started to talk and watch the deaf interpreter during service. Afterwards she would try to talk me into coming to class in the mornings to watch and learn. Later I found out that when my wife and I were finally to move to a solid area while we began our teaching careers that her mother was going to submit us to sign language classes, and in the end we were going to adopt a child who was hard of hearing.
That was the dream.
Obviously we’ve learned within the last year that, that dream didn’t come true.
To an extent.
While working in my small little Subway, stuck in the mall that the location was in; a small man, with a face full of brown facial hair came up to the storefront. He was smiling at me, and I politely asked him what he would like, and just like the man from so many years ago, in 2011 this man reached towards his ear; noting that he was hard of hearing.
Working with him was cake, just point, smile, and attempt to learn a few words [I did master the word ‘cheese’]. What was amazing about this man was that he worked in the mall, like myself, but overtime our store noticed a large influx in individuals who were hard of hearing. He was going out to his local groups of friends and directing them just to our Subway because we chose to work with them, smile, and enjoy each others company. Of course in July of 2011 I was sure to stop by his place, wave farewell and begin a new journey.
That brought me up until these past few weeks in 2012. My life has completely changed in unspeakable ways, the very idea of life has been revolutionized, and I’m just learning to take a day at a time, trying [and failing frequently] to focus on God and not myself.
It was brought to my attention a few weeks ago, through the lovely social media device Twitter that inside the United States we have among us the United States of America Deaf Soccer Association. These amazing men and women play against other teams throughout the world, and every four years compete in the Deaf World Cup. 2012 is that year. Someone, and I don’t remember who, brought up a ‘tweet’ that stated that the jersey sponsor for this program fell through and that these teams were worried about not being able to afford their journey to the world cup in Turkey.
A few facts about these teams:
- Unlike the paraolympic soccer program, this association is not funded nor supported by the US Soccer Federation [a challenge in itself].
- The players paid $5,000 of their own money to afford travel and accommodations in Turkey, no one paid their way.
- These players meet a few days out of the year to train, practice, and work the game. Other then that, the rest of the year they are out, on their own, personal training and living their daily lives.
I’m proud to say that a storm through Twitter took place, shaking the core of the United States Soccer Federation and just going ballistic on their attempt to ignore the struggle of a professional, national soccer organization after they branded themselves with the likes of Alex Morgan and Landon Donovan. I called them out for hypocrisy, and no; I wasn’t nice at all.
That’s when I got a direct message [DM] in my Twitter account; it was from the individual in charge of their Twitter account. They, as it came to a shock to me, said that their not blaming the USSF, and it isn’t their fault, and something will work out.
Are you kidding?!?!
I was livid! I’m not even on the team and I was furious with the injustice displayed by the USSF. However, this individual kept calm, cool, and the biggest thing that I wasn’t; professional.
I was given an e-mail address to contact this person at, to talk about the situation, ideas, and just random thoughts towards our unique aspects of the game. The address led directly to the vice-president of the entire association. Shocked, I just kept talking back and forth, talking about their struggles with getting companies to look at them and the USSF, I talked about my struggle with a new team, the USSF, and everything else in between. Interestingly enough, I quickly learned that their national headquarters; just down the road in St. Louis, Missouri.
It was at that time that we started to make comments about the organization through the Shock’s webpage. This took off like an openly fueled flame. Suddenly the Kansas City Shock was getting hits on their webpage by everyone under the sun, players for the USADSA were adding us on Twitter, retweets were going back and forth, we had been thrown into the game.
I tried to be as diplomatic as possible, but wanted to be clear that the toleration of a program financially struggling in the United States was inexcusable, especially when it came to a global game such as soccer; we know better.
This was about the time our PR department got a e-mail from our website from a lovely woman in Kansas; she is completely deaf and wanted to know when try-outs were for the Kansas City Shock, she wants to play for us. That’s when I had to contact the ‘founders’ of our company and tell them that we’ve opened an entirely new outlet to the game, obviously if a player had the skill; regardless of background, we want them.
That’s when the vice-president of the USADSA asked me if a specific girl had made contact with me. A girl I had never heard of before. I gentle brushed it aside, saying that I wasn’t aware of it. Within the next 48 hours, former and current players of the US Women’s National Team started to go to work, promoting, tweeting [you really have no idea how powerful social media is], and working together and within a short amount of time jersey’s and sponsors for located for this program.
I want to make it clear that by no means do I want to seen as wanting credit for starting anything that led to this success, if you couldn’t tell from the beginning that this area is a passion of mine, you’ve missed the point. I was thrilled that they were on their way to Turkey, they were using our hashtag from the Shock #shocktheworld on their Twitter accounts, and the men and women are currently in play in the world cup; the women taking on Germany tomorrow to continue their path towards gold. I strongly suggest you check them out via their tumblr page.
Finally, a few days ago I was driving out east and checking the local news while heading down the road. Across my screen came this article about an athlete for the local university that was partaking in a international tournament. When I clicked on it, I quickly found myself pulling to the side of the road from sheer entertainment.
Fifteen miles from my house, in the city I spend most of my time in, when not in KC, the local soccer team for the NCAA university located there signed a freshman player who is currently in Turkey, playing in the Deaf World Cup.
The same players the vice-president asked me about in one our e-mail conversations.
Of course I have no idea what the future holds towards anything, but I’ll inform you of this:
When God gives you a passion, don’t expect to escape or forsake; it’s there for a reason.
Why for me?
Just so I can once again say…get…your…praise…on.