Saturday, May 26, 2018

Gary

I had coffee with a friend last week, Gary from the blog Follow Your Bliss, whose class of delightful first graders I had the privilege of reading to last year. Gary teaches at the American Sign Language and English School in the city, and he had invited me to read and talk with his students about writing their own stories. He and I had been friends online for years, but it was our first time meeting in the flesh. Strangely for me, I wasn't even nervous. I already adored him. His entire demeanor is kind. Unfortunately, both then and last week, we forgot to take a picture together, because isn't that the cardinal rule when blog friends meet, to create photographic evidence that we breached the physical universe, and exist beyond virtual space? (The photo here is from Gary's instagram feed. He gave me permission to use it.)

The book I shared with his students, some deaf, some hearing, is one of my favorites: Thank You, Mr. Falker, about a dyslexic girl who doesn't understand why she can't learn, or why the other kids call her dumb, until a special teacher unlocks the world for her. It's a true story, written by author and illustrator Patricia Polacco, who was the child in the story. As I read, another teacher signed alongside me. I can never read this book without my eyes getting blurry. I chose it because in a way, Gary is like Mr. Falker, the kind of teacher we wish all children could have. He makes the world so much larger, not just for his kids, but for everyone, even the well-known Broadway actors, directors and playwrights who accept his invitation to come and read to his class, and find the experience as revelatory for them as it is for the kids.

Last week over almond cappuccino, Gary shared some stories from his years as a deaf education teacher. I couldn't stop thinking about them afterward. But what I'm remembering this morning is the way, when Gary speaks, he also unconsciously signs what he's saying. It's very beautiful, a mesmerizing dance of gestures, a language of dimensional grace.







15 comments:

  1. "A language of dimensional grace."
    As is that line.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mary, it really is lovely to watch. It made me want to learn ASL.

      Delete
  2. Sounds like a wonderful meeting with such a kind person. I love how you describe his work and how he signs when he's talking. The work of the heart never stops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. robin, i love that—the work of the heart never stops. thank you.

      Delete
  3. Oh, Gary! I'm so glad you got to see him again! I remember that, too, how he signs almost automatically. He is truly a good, smart and gentle person. The world needs many, many more Garys.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steve, I have always thought you two might be kindred spirits. Both bedrock good humans in a world so much of need of that!

      Delete
  4. Wow! Thank you for such lovely, lovely words about me and the work I do. I'd wager there will never be a more touching sentence written about me than, "His entire demeanor is kind". How I appreciate that and appreciate you. Isn't blogging extraordinary? It allowed us to meet and become friends. It led to you sharing Mr. Falker and your story with my students. And now, as I begin a new, exciting adventure in writing, you are an invaluable mentor and friend. I'll return the compliment here and state, YOUR entire demeanor is kind. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gary, thank you! As I said to Mary above, you made me want to learn ASL. Who knows? Maybe I will.

      Delete
    2. The Sign Language Center on 30th is THE place to go (and of course, we can sign together as well).

      Delete
  5. Sign language is beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A beautiful post as a result of your meeting with Gary last week! Thank you to you and Gary for inspiring me to find a reading of Thank You, Mr. Falker on YouTube. You've brought me tears of joy and gratitude! Love the story and the illustrations.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Am, I love that you sought out the story! Did you also see her illustrations? They are so evocative, and it really gets me that she’s writing and illustrating her own experience.

      Delete
  7. ASL the most expressive honest language there is! My son chose it as a second language in HS, I tagged along and learned a lot but not enough. Also I have been so trained all my life to be stiff and buttoned up, the facial expressions as an important part of ASL were not given their due.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, I wish I’d thought to choose it as a second or even third language in school. Your observations about facial expressions are fascinating. I shall keep that in mind should I pursue the learning. Is your son fluent?

      Delete