A couple years ago, we realized my baby girl was becoming deaf. It started with a sensitivity to loud noises like thunder and chain saws, then we began to realize she was losing her hearing. We were very grateful that we'd taught her hand signals in addition to vocal commands when she was a puppy.
We rely on this now. But, of course, she has to be looking at us to 'hear'.
She is now a 12 year old golden with the spirit and energy of a puppy, but she hears nothing. She sleeps alot. And soundly.
What I've noticed is that we've begun to treat her differently. We ensure we wake her with a gentle touch, so we don't startle her. We show our love (or dismay) through action and facial expression, rather than words. I'm sure she can read my lips. Sometimes she stares at me endlessly, looking for what? Acknowledgement, contact, recognition?
In short, we are more demonstrative. We use body language, facial expression and touch.
And, curiously enough, our concern for her has made us more aware of each other. It has become more important to show than to tell. I began to see how far away from this we had grown in our complacency. And how much I had missed it without even realizing it.
Caring for an Other's needs makes us less self-absorbed and more outwardly aware.
What worries me, is this. With so much attention and focus and obsession with texting and social networking...with the bulk of our interaction taking place with an iPod or Blackberry, will our society begin to lose its ability to read body language? Facial expression? Are we going to become touch-deficit?
What if the coming generation loses the intuitive recognition of the Other's feelings or needs? What then?