At first my fingers were awkward. They fumbled carelessly and sloppily like five uncooked French fries. I was in the fifth grade when I first dipped my fingers into the endless ocean of expression and allowed my hands to grow a voice.
It began simply with the American Sign Language alphabet when a short, round woman came to my class on Diversity Day to teach us a few basics. I remember watching her chubby fingers dance from word to word, and I left school that day fascinated.
I remember my palms being sweaty as I wandered anxiously into her classroom. From corner to corner, the walls were decorated with clippings and posters pertaining to Deafness and American Sign Language. Pictures of signing hands hung from the bulletin boards. I knew then that I had stepped into another world.
Once the rest of my classmates settled in their seats, she began.
She did not speak. Her hands flew about gracefully as she signed, "Hello. My name is Ms. Smiths. What is your name?" These signs did not make sense until later that week, but still I sat upright at my desk, unable to blink. My entire first meeting of her was silent.
As months passed, my class transformed from 12 independent teenagers taking a course to an unusually large family. Ms. Smiths was like our mother. When we were feeling troubled, we just let our hands do the talking. We often had intense class discussions about world issues ... without our voices. It was on these days that the lesson became less about following the curriculum and more about life. It was also then that I grew into a more sensitive and accepting person.
Ms. Smiths performed a tough task. She successfully replaced all that was ignorant in me with curiosity...