25 years ago, I started my third year of college at Jacksonville State University, to which I had just transferred from a small community college in south Alabama. I was brand new and hadn't yet met anyone, and so was sitting alone in the Baptist Campus Ministries student center. Out of nowhere came a blonde girl who looked familiar, and after chatting briefly we realized that we had met the previous year at a student conference. Her name was Marla. She was hard of hearing but didn't sign to me during that initial meeting. She invited me to the cafeteria, and I accepted.
After loading up my plate, I followed Marla to a table holding about 15 other people. I sat down and Marla began the introductions. It was then that I realized that about half the people at the table were deaf and the other half were hearing, but they all signed.
Being the social sort I am, I forged ahead and introduced myself. I had learned most of the manual alphabet and a few signs (none of them useful) a few years previously and remembered just enough to embarrass myself, but the people in the group were gracious and welcoming. That day twenty-five years ago, I made friends who are still dear to me today. Moreover, I had a rebirth. I started down a path that led my life in a completely new direction and brought me where I am today, a nationally certified American Sign Language Interpreter. All because I ran into Marla at the BCM.
This Saturday Jen and I will be attending a reunion at JSU, and I'll get to see many of the people who were there in the cafeteria that day. It's the first reunion I've ever truly looked forward to, and I hope to share more with you about how it goes.