Working at a pizza shop is interesting because I get to see the faces behind what kind of monster orders pineapple on a pizza. I get to look these people in the eye as I hand them their monstrosity. But I meet other kinds of people too. One of whom I'll never forget.
Towards the beginning of my shift a few months ago, I had an older man come in and gestured to his ears and shook his head. Then he gestured to the pen and pad in my hand, which I promptly slid across the counter. It was fairly easy to connect the dots that this man was deaf. He wrote down his order on the pad, and I, in turn, wrote down what time he could expect his order to be ready. He smiled, nodded, and walked out.
I knew a little bit of sign language at that point. I could form phrases and such, but I wasn't the greatest at interpreting what people were signing to me. But I resolved that when the man came back, I would try to sign to him.
When he came back, I smiled and slid him his order. Then I took a deep breath and signed, 'Do you know American Sign Language?' The smile on his face was priceless. He positively beamed. He quickly signed the affirmative and asked how much I knew. I signed that I didn't know a lot, but I was trying to learn. He smiled at me again and signed that my signing was very good, and I should keep trying. One more smile and one large tip later, and he was gone.
I'll be honest, that was my first time ever meeting a deaf person. It was the first and only time I've been able to apply my sign language to my daily life. But it was completely and totally worth the work I had put it then, and the hours I continue to put in now. Connecting to people is so important. And people will always appreciate someone connecting to them in their native language. And deaf and heard of hearing people aren't any different. They want to connect to the world around them too. And sign language bridges that gap that can sometimes happen when people have certain differences.
I'm nowhere close to fluent in sign language. I am entirely self-taught, and I can get by at best. But I'm going to keep trying. Even if I only ever encounter a couple deaf people in my life, I would still like to see that same smile I saw from that man at work. The one that connected us more than any other form of communication ever could.