“Stabbed in the back!” I wanted to stand up, shove my chair aside and scream the words. Instead I pasted a shaky smile on my face and pretended the words hadn’t landed in my heart.
I thought back to the beginning my scouting career when Wanda Mathis, our local Girl Scout membership director had called me saying, “Your daughter will be in Troop One-Twenty-Nine. We don’t have a leader for that troop yet. Would you be the leader?”
I jumped at the chance to take an active part in community affairs. It would be fun, I thought, to be a Scout leader for Laura and her friends.”
Then, of course, Wanda found out that I am hearing impaired: deaf in one ear, actually.
“Will you be able to handle the girls, dear?” she asked.
I ignored the “dear” and said, “Certainly. I may not always hear them correctly, but I can handle them. The year went by in a flurry of activity: meetings, trips, sleep-overs, too much glue and not enough patience.
More than once I heard myself explaining to Wanda or to parents and the other leaders, “I do not hear through doors. I cannot hear when everyone is talking.. Do not turn your back to me and do not talk to my back. I can only hear what I can see.”
Slowly the Scout volunteers came to accept the extra work they had to do in order to communicate with me. The girls seemed to adore me as much as I did them.
At the end of my second year as a leader I attended the annual council-wide meeting of leaders. I was stunned when my name was called for the Outstanding Leader award.
The delegates from my hometown gathered around me, each calling out best wishes and congratulations. Wanda seemed to be as stunned as I had been.
“How can you do something like outstanding leader,” she asked, “when you can’t balance a checkbook?”
I shrugged. “I’ve always been better with words than with numbers,” I said.
Gradually I began to see that Wanda equated any sickness or disability with decreased intelligence.
For my part, I tried hard not to make any mistakes in my handling of troop finances and in my leadership duties.
The stress of being perfect was enormous. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the mistakes. Nor could I stop Wanda from blaming me for every questionable situation.
My husband, Dale, insisted on buying me a hearing aid for our anniversary. He thought it would lessen the stress.
The hearing aid, a full shell, in the canal model, made a huge difference in my life. I was enthralled at the full range of birdsong in the trees and the melodious giggles of my Girl Scouts.
The hearing aid seemed to convince Wanda that I was indeed, a capable leader. She seemed to think I was healed.
“The hearing aid helps, I explained at a monthly parent meeting, which Wanda attended. “But it doesn’t heal. I can hear better, but not perfectly. I am still hearing impaired. The only difference is that I am now a hearing impaired person with a hearing aid; and I’m thankful God lead Dale to buy it for me.”
The next year passed without incident. Wanda had no occasion to chew me out about anything. I let down my guard and enjoyed my scouting experience.
My third year began with a training meeting at which we welcomed new leaders. I sat on a panel to answer questions and give pointers to the new leaders.
“You would think,” Wanda interrupted me, “that since Nita is hearing impaired that she wouldn’t be able to control her troop. Her troop is the best behaved in the city.”
I kept my face calm, though I felt she had stabbed me in the back.
Wanda Mathis would never accept me, never accept anything less than perfection.
“I accept you,” a soft voice whispered through my mind and heart.
I smiled and loosened the grip on the anger I had been holding.
Jesus did accept me. He accepted me, flaws and all, long before I had been born. I don’t have to be good enough for the Wandas of the world. I don’t even have to be good enough for Jesus. All I have to do is accept his gift of salvation and follow him. Following him includes letting go of the anger.
He gave me the dubious gift of hearing impairment. With his help, I’ll continue to educate the world about living with deafness.