October 8, 2008

The Voice of a Deaf Man

(A true story from 2000)

I had just left Wal-Mart and was going over my to-do list in my mind as I got into my car. Suddenly there was a knock on my window and I looked up to see a very scraggly looking man with his face pressed to my window. I was not sure whether to start the car and get out of there as soon as possible, since I was alone, or to roll down the window and see what he wanted.

In the split second I was debating what to do he held up a card and pointed to it. On the one side it said, “Pardon Me, I am deaf. Selling these for my living. Pay any price you will. Thank you.”

I shook my head no and watched as he turned around to leave. He walked with a slight limp and went up to the next person he could find. At the time I worked in a program to end homelessness and knew that many people tried to collect money to buy alcohol and drugs. I did not want to contribute if this was his agenda.

Had he asked for a coat, socks, or something else material I gladly would have given it to him, but I was hesitant giving money. I started my car and proceeded to head out of the parking lot when I was suddenly struck with guilt. We are reminded over and over again in the Bible to help those less fortunate, to not turn away another in need. Even though I was unsure what he would do with the money, I was reminded that giving is not about what I want or expect the receiver to do with the gift.

I decided to turn the car around and try and catch this man in the parking lot. I got out some money, rolled down my window and started driving up and down the rows of parked cars. Sticking my head out the window I started yelling, “hey” as I drove around beeping my horn like a maniac. I did get me some questioning looks from others, but continued my quest. And as my frustration rose and I was about to give up, I had to remember he was deaf and perhaps really could not hear all my racket.

I laughed at myself and finally parked the car and decided to walk over to him. I finally caught up to him, handed him some money, and smiled. He smiled back in response and nodded as he handed me a card like the one he had shown me at first. He signed thank you as I walked back to my car.

I laughed on the way home replaying the event in my mind. I must have looked like a crazy woman trying to chase this man down in the parking lot, but the feeling of guilt had subsided. I am not sure what happened to that man or what my money was used for, but I do know that this experience has helped me to not be so quick to dismiss others in need, no matter what they are asking for. And to this day I carry my “I am deaf. Selling these for my living” card in my wallet as a reminder.

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