Now I ask you: What author forgets to bring a pen to a booksigning? I can tell you that it's Justin Osmond, Merrill and Mary Osmond's second son, who has just self-published (with Shirley Baulmann's help) his autobiography, Hearing with My Heart. Saturday's booksigning at the Mount Pleasant Library was Justin's first one, and he forgot a pen.
But I got lucky. I shared the table with Justin, loaned (and then gave) him my extra pen, and met a friend. What a delightful young man. He has 90 percent hearing loss, the only one of his generation of Osmond cousins to have inherited a family trait. He moves gracefully between the deaf world and the hearing world, mainly because of his own will, and the strength and tenacity of his parents, who saw that he had the help he needed throughout his young life, and his reliance on the Savior.
After listening to him speak to others about his book (I assured him that was what authors did at booksignings), I watched him interact with friends and potential buyers, sharing his story and encouraging them. Justin's a busy man. He has recently returned from Africa,as part of his work with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which provides hearing aids for children and others in parts of the world where such things are terribly hard to come by. I doubt his has lots of time for booksignings, but he's a total natural, because he's such a people person.
And now he's written a wonderful book describing his quiet world, and the tremendous role that his parents and siblings and gifted educators have played in opening this quiet world and helping him reach his maximum potential, which is limitless, as far as I can tell. Over and over to his fascinated audience on Saturday, Justin explained, "While I may have a hearing defect, it doesn't have me. It doesn't define me."
That's the strength of his well-written book: whatever challenge or disability - seen or unseen - that a person might possess, it can be overcome using courage, tenacity, a sense of humor, and belief in one's self. As Justin points out several times, it never hurts to have Heavenly Father on your side.
Although some might look at the Osmonds' life as one of privilege, it's been a challenge. True, there are material blessings that have come their way, but the cost is high: travel; fathers and uncles away from home on tour; moving from place to place, at times; and real difficulties that come from having a famous label attached. Justin doesn't mince any words about the difficulties he and his siblings encountered while living in Branson, Missouri, when the Osmonds performed there. Branson High School was full of bullies quite willing to pick on the Osmonds. Even transfer to a so-called non-denominational Christian academy didn't make it better. But they stuck it out, taught where they could, and lived Christian lives among people who don't think Mormons are Christians.
As I read Justin's account of those trying years, I remember a time I was asked to speak about writing to a similar non-denominational Christian academy in nearby Springfield, Missouri. (We lived near Springfield and I worked at Cox Medical Centers.) I was all ready to speak, when I found out that the school had recently shown its students a scurrilous bit of video vomit against Mormons called, "The Godmakers." I sent a letter to the school and said that I would not speak there, after all, because I was LDS, and didn't want to have anything to do with a so-called educational facility that considered it Christian to so abuse another church, with no attempt to get facts straight.
Upon reflection now, I think Justin and his brother, Shane, were much braver than I was. In a school assembly they asked for permission to sing "I Am a Child of God" to the student body. It was granted, and they sang. After that experience, the school board voted to make "I Am a Child of God" the school song. I had refused to go to a place like that, but these two boys bravely sang in front of their peers and teachers. My hat's off to you, Justin. I didn't have your courage. (Sadly, Justin pointed out that when the Osmonds left there, the school changed the rules to ban Mormons from ever attending. Ah, well.)
Yep, Hearing with My Heart is a great read. You can buy it on Amazon, or go to http://www.justinosmond.com/. I think it's also available at Deseret Book. I recommend it wholeheartedly.