Sunday, October 24, 2010

Senior Citizen Appreciation

     For my two hour senior citizen appreciation paper, I wore extremely dampening ear muffs over my head for two hours. Being hard of hearing was a lot harder than I ever could have imagined. When you hear about composers, like Beethoven, composing a symphony when he was entirely deaf, you feel impressed, but being impressed is definitely not the same thing as truly appreciating something because you’ve been in the same position before. I was only deaf for two hours, whereas some elderly folks’ sense of hearing can diminish over the course of many years, much like Beethoven.

     So that I could truly learn to appreciate my sense of hearing, the first thing that I decided to do (after putting dampening ear muffs on) was to go and practice the piano. Normally, playing the piano is my favorite hobby. I just love jamming out to upbeat songs as my fingers lightly glide over the smooth, white keys.
Truly enjoying your favorite activity is extremely hard when you can barely strain to hear it. I’m sure that my parents, in the next room, were awed by how well I could play for not hearing, but I wasn’t impressed with my own playing in the slightest. When I tapped the keys in a soft rhythm while playing pianissimo in dynamic, I literally could not hear a note to save my life. To dampen my spirits as much as my hearing, when I reached the gloriously loud and exciting parts of a sonatina by Clementi, I could still barely hear anything, even though I knew that I was playing obnoxiously loud. The only song I could really hear was when I was pounding out “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by the Beetles. No wonder the Beetles are still so classic, they are easy for the elderly to hear.

     When you’ve played an instrument for a few years, it becomes easier to play by ear. I winced more than a few times when I could actually hear myself playing a wrong note. The worst thing about it was that I couldn’t hear the piano well enough to try and fix my mistakes by ear. If I didn’t have a piece memorized, it was extremely hard to hear if I was actually playing the correct notes in the first place. Suddenly, I knew that it was time to stop trying to practice the piano. I got the point and I appreciated my ears a lot more than I had thirty minutes earlier, when I had reluctantly put the ear muffs over my ears.

    Not being able to play piano was only the beginning to my newfound discovery of my appreciation of being able to hear. Around the house, my parents can rely pretty heavily on me to do chores and help take care of things. Although they both knew and understood the gist of my psychology assignment beforehand, they became a little exasperated as I embarrassingly but honestly muttered, “What?” repeatedly when I couldn’t hear them. Sometimes, they had to repeat a phrase four or five times before I understood what they wanted me to do. The other times I would just do a random chore while in their line of sight to please them, I became rather good at guessing what they wanted me to do when I stubbornly didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t hear them.

     Most unfortunately, my parents and younger brother weren’t the only ones that I couldn’t hear. I couldn’t even hear myself. It was as if someone had put a gag over my mouth and I really had to spit out my words to be heard. There was absolutely no way for me to tell how loudly or softly I was speaking. It was embarrassing how loudly I was forced to talk. Now I really understand why senior citizens sometimes yell when they’re talking; it’s not necessarily because they want you to hear them, it’s because they can’t even hear themselves. That was by far one of the hardest parts of the assignment.

     I am a person who loves to play the piano, and quite apparently, I talk a lot more than I realized; that’s why not being able to hear was so hard for me personally. Not only do I appreciate my own sense of hearing more from this experience, I appreciate the diligence of the elderly in trying to hear others and be heard no matter how embarrassing it is.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Don't Judge

     I seem to be getting a lot of lessons about judging people lately! Maybe someone upstairs is trying to tell me something. I'm judgmental. They aren't too far off, it's not that I'm judgmental of people as a whole, I just over-analyze people's actions a lot. It's a weakness I know, but we all have something that we can work on, right?

     Yesterday I had an incredible lesson in my Sunday-school class that made me really think twice about judging people.

     With tear-filled eyes and frequent stops to try and contain the emotions that he felt, Brother Perry recounted a story of when he had judged too quickly. Every day a boy had come into his class with a terrible attitude that took the spiritual edge completely out of the class. The boy was a negative pessimist of a student, who used terrible language. He laughed at his rude disruptions, knowing the damage that he was doing to the spirit and morale of the class.
One day Brother Perry was fed up with the boy,
"You can't talk like that in here! Get out of my class right now!" he demanded. Without another word, the boy solemnly rose from his chair. Without a backward glance he left the classroom, a trace of a smile on his lips. He had been right. Nobody wanted him. At home, at school, or in church and seminary.
The class sat, stunned into silence. A girl spoke up, her face had a look of horror clearly written across it,
"Brother Perry... Why did you do that? You don't know him. You shouldn't have done that! I have known him since the second grade, and his life is a total mess right now." Brother Perry felt guilty the second he had ordered the boy out, but he didn't know how else to react. Clearly the boy wasn't intending to change his attitude, but now he'd gone so far as to kick a student out of class.

     Maybe the boy had been testing him, trying to prove something to himself. Why else would a normally good-hearted boy who even bothered to show up to a church class have started acting out like that?

     Brother Perry called the boy's father that night. The father wasn't at home. The next day he found out the boy's story from the girl who had disproved of his sending the rude boy out of class.
The boy's dad had gotten a divorce from his mom, and in no time at all, got married to another woman. The boy's story was much like Cinderella, except for the fact that his mom was still alive and having to live with the pain of being abandoned all so quickly.

     His new step-mom paid no attention to him at all, and if she did, it was out of pure need. A need which she took with a look full of disgust and contempt, all because she did not like her step-son what-so-ever.

     And to make matters worse, his father was so madly enough in love with this second wife, that he paid no attention to his son. The careless father barely noticed him anymore. The boy was completely broken-hearted. His father had literally been his best friend. They had done everything together, and now he was gone. It was as if he had lost a dad and a best friend all in the same sitting. To make matters even more painful, his dad and his best friend were the same person, making the pain of abandonment all the worse. The boy was heart-broken and forlorn. He didn't know how to react to the horrible change of events in his life, and so he acted out at school and church. The stress and heart-ache were almost too much for him to bear... And then the only teacher who had cared for him on a spiritual level had tossed him out. Just like his dad.

Brother Perry went on to tell us in a choked voice,
"Guys... Don't judge anyone! You never know what is going on in a person's life, and even if you do that is no reason to judge them for it. We all make judgments. We're human. We can't help it. But please, please learn this; the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God. We aren't God, but we need to do our best to love people unconditionally no matter what they do or how they act."

Hands shaking, he took a five dollar bill out of his pocket.
In a more light-hearted tone he asked the class this question,
"Who in this class would want this five dollar bill?" In a church class, at least you can expect people to be fairly honest, after all. Hands rose up as we looked at the upraised face of another honest man, Honest Abe to be exact.
"Would you still want this money if I did this?" Without warning, Brother Perry crushed the bill in his hand, wrinkling it beyond the point where it could ever be made flat again.
"Now, who would still want this?" he asked solemnly.
All of our hands were raised as before.
"Why is that? It's all wrinkled. It doesn't look new. Why would you want this crinkled little thing?" A student looked up from his clasped hands and with a clear voice stated,
"Because it is still worth as much as it was before."
Brother Perry smiled, although the pain of memory still lingered in his eyes,
"Exactly. You wouldn't judge money, this five dollar bill is still worth as much no matter how crinkled it is... However, money is useless to God. Can you imagine how much more you, his children, are worth to him? His son died to redeem you, because he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were worth it. You are worth it. Don't forget your worth, and don't forget that everyone, no matter who they are or what they have done are still of great worth."