In December I shared a blog entry about “Jeremy’s Son” (you can see the full story here: Jeremy’s Son). On the evening of Valentines Day a few nights ago, just as I was settling in after a day of service at the studio, I received the following message from Jeremy. I hope it touches your heart as it did mine, and, I thank you all who participated in creating the messages that we sent to him! Once again, “You never know how far reaching something you think, say, or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.” -B.J. Palmer, Chiropractor. Thank You Jeremy & Jeremy’s son!
“Jeremy’s Son” with the school supplies he purchased for a school in Mexico with our small donations at the Holidays.
We came home from our Christmas holiday, visiting family on the East Coast, to find your package. Our son remembered the story I shared with him a couple of months ago, when you needed a hand. The evening we opened your letter, he really listened to every word you wrote to him. Then, we opened card after card from your friends, and our breath was taken away. Thank you to you and your friends for the outpouring of generosity, wisdom, and openness. It was a profound experience for my son, my wife and for me, too. We sat, marveling for a time at all the cards, with our son (a second grader) counting the dollar bills that your friends included in their sweet thank you notes. He could hardly believe that out of the $20 his daddy gave you, grew all these beautiful cards, and $71!
After a few minutes, he said “I know what we can do with this money. Let’s use it to buy the school supplies for the children in Mexico!” His class has adopted a school for deaf children in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. It was founded just recently and has very little in the way of supplies or materials. Below is an excerpt from the newsletter My Son’s Second Grade teacher sent to our class parents, inviting us to help the Zihuatanejo school.
“…As part of hearing the Golden Legends, about compassionate and generous human beings who found that their destiny was a life of service to those less fortunate, we realized this year how blessed we are. We have paper and crayons to create beautiful drawings, main lesson books to record what we are learning, beautiful poetry to please our ears, and shelves filled with books we soon will be reading with our reading buddies. I am attaching a letter from my friend, Dr. Patricia Gans, who has helped start a school for deaf children in Zihuatanejo in Mexico. She found that deaf children did not develop any language, were isolated and not able to communicate, for there was no one to teach them sign language. Now there is a small initiative with two teachers teaching sign language, and the beginning of a school. Since we are learning Spanish and Sign Language in the second grade, we are hoping to build a lasting connection between our class and this initiative and become pen pals. I am hoping to start this off by inviting you to prepare and send a Holiday Shoebox to Zihuatanejo – a small box full of school supplies (details are in the letter from Pat Gans). Thank you for considering sharing some of the things we feel so committed to (providing a school environment in which the children feel seen and encouraged to be the best possible human being)…”
Needless to say, we feel incredibly blessed to have such a compassionate and generous teacher for our child. Well, our son has taken to heart this opportunity to help the children at the deaf school. We took those $71 to the store, and spent every penny buying school supplies (scissors, paper, crayons, watercolor paints, pencils, erasers, books, stickers, a ruler, some beanbags and cat’s cradle games, etc.). We packed them up and sent them off to Zihuatanejo.
You can read below the letters we have received from the family who started this initiative, which is called Zihuatanejo Signs of Change.
Thank you, Rhea, for your part in this inspirational moment in our family’s life,
From the School:
Dear Friends of Zihuatanejo Signs of Change,
What happened today? I saw a boy who one year ago had rudimentary communication through gesture richly expressing ideas and pondering questions and making jokes in sign language! He is thirteen and I realized that now he is hungry to learn to read and write and together we read a baby book and he listed words to learn to spell and recognize. In his face I saw a boy who believes in himself and understands how to tackle the task though it seems formidable. He is the boy to whom the other deaf children with less language look in hope. He knows it is his responsibility to give them a hand up as he continues to climb so as he learns to spell the words he teaches the others to sign them.
I saw another boy who one year ago had no language—not even his own name. Now he babbles in sign as his little fingers fly to capture the ideas which tumble by in his yet unformed thoughts. And I saw that he is now fiercely hungry for language. He is eleven. Together today we discovered the story of Ferdinand the Bull and he was so deeply engaged that at times when I would start to turn the page, he would turn it back to work more with the ideas in the picture previous which he was still naming and labeling and categorizing and understanding. He was as tenacious and eager and joyously desperate as a thirsty soul in the desert. And my turning the page too soon was like trudging past the oasis unquenched. In the oasis of language offered by each page, he demanded time to lie in the water, splash in the water, drink deeply, swish it about, feel it trickle down his neck, see the sun reflect upon it and watch it ripple. I was honored to join him in this exploration.
Today I saw three Deaf teachers working with five deaf children giving their all to pry open the doors of literacy and language. They must re-invent teaching in this situation. They are accustomed to deaf children who need more vocabulary and have poor reading skills but they have never been faced with children who have no language whatsoever. How does one explain things to someone with no language? Every time you start to describe something you realize they can’t access all the in between stuff. The children are mostly age eleven to thirteen and it is difficult to remember how minute their vocabularies are. It is equally astounding to watch them soak up language when it is presented in an accessible format like signing. It’s like drinking with a straw! They suck it up faster than you can pour it in. They seem almost to suck it right out of the teachers’ hands. Making concepts accessible starts with mime and gesture and progresses to true language so a two hour morning class means the teacher is tapping all his creative performing energy without pause. It’s like playing charades in a secret code which only the presenter knows. Another challenge is that these children have been tuning out all their lives because they rarely had access to what was happening and tuning out is a way to survive the boredom of that situation. Now they are being asked to pay attention. Yet in the midst of this difficult task, their eyes are sparkling and their skin is flushed. They look as though they are watching the careful unveiling of something delicate and magical or crystals forming in a slowly cooling supersaturated solution. You almost have the feeling you can see the nerve endings connecting in the long starved language centers of their brains like time lapse photography of a tree growing roots or a flower blossom unfolding. And somehow in this brilliant exchange process the teacher begins energetically like a fully inflated balloon with the stem let go zooming about from child to child luring them in then holding and focusing their attention while clicking all the ideas into place, pulling the chains on all the little light bulbs and unlocking all the little prison doors only to finally collapse with a hiss to the floor slightly over stretched and limp and exhausted. Truly this is not easy work. Surprisingly, after an evening relaxing on their rented second floor cinder block rooftop patio overlooking the Mercado downtown and with few pesos for only the simplest food because the teaching is all voluntary and another lesson plan to produce for tomorrow, they return pumped up and re-inflated day after day to repeat this miracle of love and endurance and we all can see the children bloom.
Today we learned to sign colors and we painted the partitions which will form a boundary for the Deaf Study Area. Tomorrow we will open the “shoeboxes”. The next day we will obtain a small used book shelf to make a home for the new library. Before two weeks are done, we will have a tiny classroom within a classroom in which the deaf children may gather to explore and keep safe the wonderful educational tools donated by many loving hearts. Please check Facebook– Zihuatanejo Signs of Change to see photos posted of the children at school today and throughout the next week. You really cannot know the extent of your effect. Thank you for making such a difference in their lives.
With warmest regards,
Patricia B. Gans MD
Director Trillium Deaf Program a sponsor of Zihuatanejo Signs of Change