Luo Sheng-tangSheng-tang (far left) with his teammates

When I was around one year old, I lost my hearing. The doctors were never able to determine why. My parents were shocked when they first learned about my condition. They were at a loss as to how they were going to raise me and worried about my future. It was because of this that they decided to begin practicing Buddhism, with the wish that I would grow up happily.

When I was younger, I felt very helpless whenever I had to communicate with people who have normal hearing ability. Not able to understand what I was mouthing, they often became upset and impatient as I started to express my thoughts through writing. I was really bothered by this.

I realized, though, that they were not aware of what deaf people have to face in our lives. The best I could do was to be true to myself and strive to convey my thoughts. After all, things are indeed different for us. We cannot hear. We have to spend more time than others learning.

Through [my parents’] faith, they have taught me not to let barriers stand in my way.

At home, my mother encouraged me to voice my words when I talked to my family, so that I could communicate verbally. After a long period of trying to enunciate every single word, I am now able to let people understand what I am trying to say. If the other person finds it difficult to grasp what I’m trying to communicate, I resort to writing. I have also learned to lip-read so that I can understand what others are trying to tell me.

It is because my parents did not give up on me and taught me to the best of their ability that I am what I am today. It’s largely because of them that I also decided to start practicing Buddhism. Through their faith, they have taught me not to let barriers stand in my way.

Since I was little, I’ve always loved sports and frequently participated in competitions. In 2009, I was selected to participate in the Summer Deaflympics as part of the men’s 400-meter relay team. Training was tough, but these are memories I’ll never forget. By participating in this great sporting event, I made friends with people from all over the world and met many great athletes. I learned International Sign Language (ISL) and using this, I was able to communicate with athletes from many different countries and forge great bonds.

related article Bridge from a Soundless World Bridge from a Soundless World by  Shin’ichi Yoshida,  Japan As a baby, Shin'ichi Yoshida was diagnosed as being deaf, but he practices Buddhism in the Soka Gakkai through sign language, chanting and the warm-hearted support of his group who also learned to communicate through sign language. In the run-up to the event, I injured my thigh muscles. I was worried about being able to participate, but my trainer kept encouraging me, reminding me that I needed to believe in myself. My family also encouraged me constantly. I kept telling myself I had to get well, that my injury would heal soon and I’d be able to race successfully.

Even as the day of the competition drew near, my leg was still not completely healed. I realized that whatever happened, I simply had to exert my utmost, together with my teammates. I was overjoyed that we were able to win the bronze medal. This victory was a result of our unity.

Even though a hearing impairment is often a communication barrier, we have to do our best so that people can understand us. Although I may have to face puzzled looks from others, I will remain optimistic and positive. I am very happy that I have people like my friends and family who care about me. For anyone else struggling with a hearing impairment like me, I’d like to tell them not to be discouraged or disheartened. You have to do what you need to do, and be positive in whatever circumstances you find yourself.

[Courtesy, April 2011 SGI Quarterly]

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