August 15, 2011

My ASL Story

I'm such a dork, but I was so excited about the encounter that I describe in this video that I had to share--in sign language, no less.

Here's a transcript of what I'm saying:

"Hi, I want to tell you a story.

I learned to sign to music for church and school a long time ago, but I've never signed a conversation with a deaf person. Why? Because I'm scared! When I'm around people who are deaf and they're all signing to each other, I freeze! I feel shy and embarrassed. My signing is slow. It's bad. I try to sign, but I blush and shake, and I forget all of the sign language I know.

Anyway, last week, I visited a church with my husband. I was looking around for a place to sit, and I saw a woman signing. She was interpreting church for her husband. I said 'hi,' and we started talking. I told her about my fear of signing with deaf people. She said that I needed to meet her husband because I know sign language. I said 'okay.'

All of a sudden, there was a deaf man right in front of me! I started shaking and my face turned red, but he said (well, he signed) 'hi.' So I signed 'hi, my name is Jessi." His name was Troy. Easy, right? I signed that I go to Roberts Wesleyan College where I study English and Communications. (My signing was bad. His wife helped interpret for me.)

We 'talked,' and he was so nice! He was polite and smiling--so happy that I was trying to sign. He made me happy, too.

I hope that now my fear is gone."

I suppose I just reached a point where I asked myself why I wanted to learn sign language so badly. When I truthfully answered myself that it was because I enjoyed signing for audiences the way I enjoyed acting and other forms of performance art, I didn't really like that answer. It seemed selfish. I needed to reexamine my motives.

Yes, sign language is one of the most beautiful forms of communication known to man, but to some people, it is their only form of communication. It is the only way that they can connect with the world.

I want to be a part of that world that they can connect with.

On a subconscious level, I think that learning sign language has always been a way for me to expand the audience of people I am able to reach through art. I want to be able to speak to the hearts of more than just the people who can hear or read the words I say--the pictures I want to be able to paint with words. I want to be able to speak to the hearts of people who can only see the pictures I paint with my hands.

Thanks for your help, Troy :-)


  1. I am just reading this and it brought tears to my eyes. I know Troy and work with him on media projects ;) he works with final cut at RIT. I can sympathize with the fears you have but I can assure you he's experienced my fumbling alphabet signing LOL I wish I knew more! You are an inspiration Jessi!

  2. Aw, that's so good to hear! You're so sweet.


Thanks for your thoughts!