By Tony Rossi
Mandy Harvey has a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, and it goes beyond the fact that the deaf singer recently earned a fourth-place finish on the TV series “America's Got Talent.” You might be asking, “How can a deaf person be a singer?” During a “Christopher Closeup” interview about her memoir “Sensing the Rhythm,” Mandy told me that her years of musical training growing up help immensely. She also uses electronic tuners that give her a visual cue when she hits the right note. Then she practices for hours, learning to recognize how certain notes vibrate in her throat, chest, or nasal cavity.
Ten years ago, Mandy was attending college to become a vocal music teacher when she completely lost her hearing over several months and fell into a deep depression. While her faith could have helped her deal with this tragic detour, her Bible study peers made her feel worse by telling her that God wasn’t restoring her hearing because she didn’t have enough faith.
Mandy said, “Instead of praying for me to have strength or wisdom to make good decisions or patience, they kept praying for a miracle that wasn’t happening and then blaming me when it didn’t.” In the end, Mandy’s conversations with her father, a minister, led her to understand that God was helping her move forward, not punishing her: “I wish we could all understand that the world is broken, that life is messy, and bad things happen...We’re supposed to hold each other’s hands and say, ‘We’re gonna get through this together. What can I do for you?’”
The biggest sources of help in Mandy’s life were her parents. They encouraged her to create opportunities for herself by taking American Sign Language classes and getting involved with the local deaf community. Then one day, her father asked her to try playing and singing music with him, like they had done throughout her childhood. He just wanted to see if there could still be a place in her life for her true passion. She discovered there was.
Mandy’s willingness to follow the opportunities that God put in her path led her to “America's Got Talent” in 2017. Why did she audition? She explained, “Singing at this point is very much for other people. I don’t get to hear it as it comes out, so I’m singing for you, to encourage you and make you smile.” And like so many people were a source of God’s light to Mandy when she was in darkness, she is now the same for them: “People [are] telling me their stories and their pain and they’re not giving up because of something that I said. Them not giving up will encourage other people to not give up, and it’s going to have a ripple effect.”
Mandy is not only grateful for the blessings she has experienced, but for the fact that she gets to be a blessing to others while doing what she loves. It’s a journey she’s traveling with God at her side. She concludes, “I don’t see God as a bully with a stick anymore. I aim to see him as a Father, as somebody who cries with you when you fail or struggle - and someone who is encouraging you when you get back up...That’s the beautiful thing about having a relationship: it’s an everyday learning experience, and I feel like I have a lot more faith and trust than I ever did.”
Tony Rossi is executive director of The Christophers.
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