Lyle grew up in a children’s shelter and later had a complicated adult life until he started working as a janitor at another shelter. He loved being around kids, and everything changed for him when someone new came to work and taught the kids something special.
Lyle was born deaf, and he had no memories of his parents. He grew up in a children’s shelter, and sadly, no one wanted to adopt a kid like him. Additionally, the shelter didn’t have any employees who could communicate with him, but he tried to learn things independently.
He read and was great at it. Lyle started to carry a notepad and pencil always to communicate with people. Only in adulthood did he learn about sign language, and his whole world opened up. Sadly, things were still hard for him.
Lyle had no support system or family, and it was complicated to get jobs as a hard-of-hearing person. But the universe smiled upon him as he found a wanted ad on the paper. A children’s shelter needed a janitor, and he applied for the job immediately.
For a few short seconds, it was like he could hear their joy just because he felt it.
Lyle expressed as best he could about growing up in a shelter and how his disability would not affect his cleaning, and luckily, the director of that shelter gave him a chance. This place was way nicer than the group home he had grown up in.
It was in a fancier neighborhood and received donations from many rich people in the area, so the children had access to more education, opportunities, and activities. They were also a bit religious, but Lyle didn’t mind that because he loved seeing their happy faces.
They often came to talk to him while he was cleaning up. He read their lips as best he could and pointed at or drew things on his pad. They laughed and joked with him. Overall, it was a dream job, even if it would never make him a millionaire, although he still felt somewhat lonely.
But his whole world changed when they hired a new woman as a teacher for the kids. Her name was Aminah, and she was the most beautiful woman Lyle had ever seen. But the best part is that she caught on quickly that he couldn’t hear anything and started using sign language immediately.
It was the first time someone had used it so quickly in his life.
“Where did you learn sign language?” he asked her, using his hands.
“My dad was born deaf, and he taught me from early on. He’s also a big part of the deaf community here in Charleston,” Aminah revealed. Lyle had no idea that their town in South Carolina had such a community. But why would he? He didn’t have family or anyone to teach him that truly.
“That’s fantastic. What does that community do?”
“Oh, I’ll give you their contact information, and they have a Facebook group for events. It’s really great. They go around teaching and educating about being deaf…” Aminah explained, going into detail. Lyle loved everything she said – not just because it was a breath of freshness to learn such good things but because her sign language skills were so smooth.
Soon enough, the kids saw them talking with their hands and got curious. Aminah asked the shelter director about giving the children lessons; she loved the idea.
Aminah was red-faced as she explained what was happening.
Classes started quickly, and soon, the kids were gesturing at Lyle every morning. Some of them learned quicker than others, and Lyle felt truly at home for the first time in his life.
One night, Lyle was finishing up and putting all the cleaning supplies away when Aminah appeared in the hallway with all the children. Soon, they started signing Happy Birthday to him while singing simultaneously.
He was struck still at that moment. No one had ever greeted him for his birthday ever. When the kids finished, they clapped and jumped, and for a few short seconds, it was like he could hear their joy just because he felt it. His tears couldn’t be stopped, although he cleaned up quickly before they could see.
They all took turns hugging him. Aminah approached him and asked if everything was alright with him.
“Yes, I’m alright. It’s just… that was my first birthday greeting ever. I had never met someone who understood sign language until you came along. Thank you, Ms. Aminah. Thank you so much,” he signed with trembling hands.
Aminah smiled brightly and explained to the kids how happy Lyle was and why. The kids were happy, and they went to their dormitories afterward.
Aminah waved as Lyle went home. She was leaving a little later. But little did they know that not all the kids had gone away to their bedrooms. Two girls had stayed and watched them in secret, and they had a plan for them.
It was the end of their shift a few days later, and Lyle was pleasantly chatting with Aminah about an upcoming event her father was organizing. A bunch of the kids showed up, grabbing their hands and ushering them somewhere.
“Guys, Mr. Collins and I are leaving already. It’s late for us,” Aminah chided them gently, but they wouldn’t let go of her hands. She looked at Lyle and shrugged. He grinned, not knowing what was going on either.
However, the kids escorted them outside, and they discovered a candle-lit table with a spaghetti dinner ready. There were only two chairs.
“What’s this?” Aminah asked, placing her hands on her waist.
“Ms. Aminah! We think you two should be boyfriend and girlfriend, so you have to eat dinner together,” one of the girls told their teacher, who couldn’t help but laugh loudly.
Still, they both sat down, and the kids soon left.
“What’s happening?” Lyle wondered, still confused.
Aminah was red-faced as she explained what was happening. But Lyle grinned and replied, “This isn’t such a bad idea.”
“No, it’s actually really nice,” Aminah nodded, and they started eating.
That was the first night they ate together… but not the last.
What can we learn from this story?
Everything gets better and brighter once you find where you fit in the world. Lyle felt isolated and lost from everyone until he met Aminah and a whole world opened up. He had a friend, a community to be with, and kids who wanted him to be happy.
Encouraging communities for people with disabilities is so important. These spaces are vital because this world can be pretty harsh on those who are different. These communities can help educate and promote inclusivity.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.