Sometimes people stare at someone who looks different or acts differently. My Bubie says that not everyone is the same. Hashem (God) gave different gifts to every person and also different challenges. We cannot know what another person has to overcome in his life and that is why my Bubie says that Hashem put us here to help each other with all of our hardships. We should try not to stare at people who look different and we should try to help when we can. I think this is a good idea. My parents try to help people too. It is sometimes hard to make friends with people who are different, but my Bubie says that it is important and you can see this from the next story which she told us.
Once there was a boy who could not hear. When he was born his parents realized at a very young age that he could not hear noises around him. They took him to many doctors but all of them said that there was not much that they could do. Some of the doctors recommended a special school where he could learn sign language and others recommended that he go to a regular school and learn how to read people’s lips and try to fit into the classroom as best he could.
His parents didn’t know what to do so they went to the Rebbe and asked him. The Rebbe was very wise and told them that it was important that their son learned to communicate in sign language and also to read lips and try to learn how to speak. There was a special school for him to learn sign language that he could go to during the day and in the afternoon he suggested that he go to the regular Cheder and work with a teacher who could speak slowly and help him to learn from the books the boys were learning in Cheder.
The young boy, Yankele was his name, was very clever and learned sign language quickly. It was harder for him to learn to read the lips of his teacher and even harder to read the lips of the children around him. At home, his mother and father tried to learn sign language too but it was difficult for them for they also had other children and work to go to everyday. Yankele’s siblings also did not learn sign language very quickly. Some of them tried harder than others but Yankele realized that he would have to get better at reading lips if he wanted to understand what was being said around him.
The hardest part for Yankele was making friends. At the school where he learned sign language he could speak to people and be friendly, but they were not children from his neighborhood and also, none of them went to Cheder in the afternoon like Yankele did. At the Cheder he had no friends because the children did not understand that he couldn’t hear them and they thought he was unfriendly and didn’t want to play with them.
One day a new boy came into the Cheder. His name was Usher Anshel David. He loved to play and he loved to learn, although it was difficult for him to learn because sometimes his eyes didn’t see the words on the page the way other children saw the words. He worked with a special reading Rebbe, but it was still hard for him.
Usher Anshel David noticed Yankele working with the teacher and thought, “I wonder why he speaks so differently from the other boys?” After class that day he approached Yankele and asked him, “Do you have reading problems? Is that why you are working with the teacher?” Yankele looked at Usher Anshel David, and although it was difficult for him to express the words so that he could be understood, he answered, “I do not have trouble reading, I cannot hear”. “What do you mean you cannot hear?” asked Usher Anshel David. “I was born deaf- which means that I cannot hear any sounds and I must follow your lips so that I can try to understand what you are saying to me. Also, I do not speak very clearly because I can’t hear my own voice and I do not know if I am pronouncing the words the way they are supposed to be said.”
Usher Anshel David didn’t know what to say since he had never heard about this problem before but he looked at Yankele and asked him, “Can you play? Do you want to come to my house to play?” Yankele said that he would love to come to play with Usher Anshel David. He had to go home first to tell his Mame where he was going and then they could go to Usher Anshel David’s house.
This was the beginning of a great friendship between Yankele and Usher Anshel David. They had many adventures together and Yankele even taught Usher Anshel David some sign language, which became a secret language between them that they could speak and almost no one around them knew what they were saying.
There is not time now, but there will be other stories about some of their adventures, riding bicycles, learning to drive the Hatzala ambulance, saving people’s lives and going on many trips together, America, Canada and England to visit family there. For now you should know that Usher Anshel David and Yankele never thought of themselves as being handicapped. They knew that together they could accomplish anything and everything because they were friends and with a good friend you can change the world!