Smiling Amongst Silence: The Deaf of Timor Leste
It's tough enough growing up in a developing country ravaged by war, poor governance and limited resources. Its even tougher when you are born or develop a disability. A disability as terrifying as not being able to hear.
I tell you what. On more than a few occasions I was moved to tears over the last 48 hours. You take a lot of things for granted. Hearing is one of them; for those of us with good hearing or even average hearing. It is just part of life right?
Well not for all. And boy did the universe give me a kick in the ass.
Imagine not hearing Aretha's soulful voice? Respect. Chain of Fools. Say a little prayer. (Bless you Aretha and rest in peace)
Imagine not waking up to the sound of the song bird?
Or the crying of your new born babe.
Or the sound you and your lover make when you are at that special time and that special place.
Or how about the sound of water as you sit still by the ocean grief stricken over the loss of a loved one?
My god. I'm welling up just now to think of what it is like to never hear those things.
These insights and the deep well of gratitude was visited upon me because of good friend Tony Jong asked me to join him on a trip to meet the deaf and donate to the Agape School of Deaf in Timor Leste. I was honoured and of course, as soon as I heard the word Agape, I jumped at the chance to do something for those who, by no fault of their own, ended up on this planet in a tough part of this world without the ability to hear.
Stupidly on two occasions, i completely forgot that Tony was deaf, and told him I would wake him up by knocking on the door. The second idiotic moment happened on the plane when I gave him wise counsel to listen to some intellectual and spiritual podcasts to help with his mission in life. Dickhead!
We just take the ability to hear and for other peoples ability to hear as granted.
Now you think that if you weren't able to hear. That you would be miserable. You think if you didn't have money and things were tough. You would be miserable. Hmmm not so, not surprising on the economical front, as I have spent plenty of time in the developing world. But hearing - well surprisingly it was smiles amongst silence.
All the simple things like volleyball on the beach, doing arts and crafts, having pizza, showing people around brought out unbridled joy. The smiles were wider than the gap between the rich and the poor in this world.
Boy, what Joy.
Timor Leste, is a beautiful place. The Timorese are a beautiful people.
The Deaf of Timor Leste are a beautiful group of people.
How can I explain the feeling. Let me try.
Honoured. Humbled. Shamed. Inspired. Grateful. Motivated.
Whatever this cocktail of bliss is; I'm smiling because of their Smiling amongst Silence.
Note - I am very thankful for Tony Jong for allowing me to accompany him on a special pilgrimage. I'm also thankful for his Cousin Nat for taking us around and of course the lovely Wennie and her family for their service to the community.
For more information you can visit the website - http://www.agapeschoolforthedeaf.com/