Monday, August 25, 2008

First Day

The students have arrived; from all over the world the students have arrived. The summer-sleepy, sunbaked campus is awash with youth and energy. Skateboarders race down the main oval. Members of the basketball team dribble down to the gym and back, carboload in the dining hall, compare muscles gained in summer workouts. There’s a brand new football field, a mix of sand and turf and old tires, and two, three times a day, the football team gathers there and practices the art of throwing other people painfully to the ground, their work marked by intensity and silence.

From this high point in the city, the sunsets are straight out of God’s crayola kit. Today’s was a burnished light purple that framed the Washington Monument and the important buildings to the west where people do important things. In this, Eastern section, of town people don’t generally do such important things, and that takes some of the pressure off. Northeast DC is renown for its drugs and crime, murder stats that would make bullets blush, and not for the prestige of its buildings and citizens -- politics is secondary here.

So what’s first?

Beneath the setting sun, a fraternity marches across a campus plaza in single file, holding sabers, dressed in blue hoods and robes. Four girls sit on a bench and discuss the boys in their classes. Old friends and new ones greet each other with genuine good-feeling. This is a culture that reads body language as well as any Oprah endorsed psychic, fake smiles don’t fly here. Be real, son. Let your heart out. Trust it.

Trust it.

Beautiful yes, but possibly doomed. Technology is advancing and giving children born deaf ever more opportunities to join the mainstream. And so they are. And they whirl through fascinating, challenging lives and don’t see the point of coming here. And so Gallaudet has to change; to re-establish its mission, so that it becomes a launching place for all these opportunities, for all these young, energetic lives.

It’s a task no one here asked for, but everyone’s trying. Next to the football field, surrounded by blinding white concrete, sits a new building with the most top of the line auditory technology this world has seen. Row after row of testing booths, research labs, classrooms – all devoted to maximizing hearing and educational performance.

Because in the end, the goal is: learn. There is no right way, every person is different, but learn. Learn, learn, learn. Ya-hey, education opens the doors, son. Put on these aids.

Though, sometimes, when you take your dog for a walk in the meadows behind the school, and you watch the sun set like a streak of elemental sorrow or a snapshot of incomparable grace, or when you walk thru the dining hall, and see face after face consumed with attention and connection and kindness, or when you stand in an elevator with a stranger, quietly, you’ve never met, but you know – know – there’s something that connects you that’s deep and special and rare, or when a friend takes your arm to walk you across a field, or the deaf-blind man takes your hands and you tell him about your dog’s adventures with the security force, or when you see a new signer struggling for words and an old signer saying with his gaze don’t worry, take your time, we will get there together, your intention is pure and that is what matters -- sometimes, these times, other times, you can’t help but think, why does the world have to change so darn fast.

I don't know why. But it does.


Blogger funniah said...

ah, josh.

beautiful. touches the heart. i have been deeply wondering from the discussion we had at the white tiger. you really said it all in here :)

trust it. yup.

12:23 PM  
Blogger funniah said...

p.s. the pictures didnt fully load up the first time. wow, beautiful

7:48 PM  
Blogger Jodi Cutler Del Dottore said...

likin' that: murder stats that would make bullets blush.
So you had a good first day at school. Hmm. interesting post. Pinch Sharon for me! Jodi

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful beautiful post.

3:48 PM  

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