It’s Not Fair and It’s Not Your Fault!

By Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D.  •  October 26, 2023

Shannon was our first grandchild, and she entered this world early, spending her first month in an intensive care nursery for premature infants. Tiny and rosy-red from her birthing journey, she began her first days in a special care environment and quickly grew from being a “preemie” to becoming a powerful new member of our family.

She entered this world with all “systems” in place and working. For thirty days she fought to survive in her new and unfamiliar world of noise and light and touch and strangers. Her will to live was a constant companion guiding her courage to persist and to succeed. But at the end of her first month in this environment we discovered the machines that were keeping her alive were damaging the nerves in her ears, causing her to lose her hearing.

Learning to Live as a Deaf Child in a Hearing World

Shannon entered a wonderful program for the deaf and we all learned sign language.

Fast forward twelve years in which we spent unforgettable moments with Shannon as she learned how to live as a deaf child in a hearing world. We joined a group of grandparents in a class to learn how to sign with our precious grandchildren who were deaf.

We were thrilled to be able to sign with her and her deaf friends. Our admiration for her determination to communicate with us and others constantly grew along with her increasing ease of communication. We were blessed with the gift of time with her as she learned her new language and we learned to read and sign it.

But one day, when she was around twelve years of age, she surprised us with her first complaints about being deaf and they were very real. She didn’t want to be deaf. Not her choice; not her decision. My heart ached with her pain. Not fair!

It was not fair to have survived the rigors of being premature and still be dealing with the reality of being deaf. It just wasn’t FAIR. Her anger was real. Her frustration grew. We surrounded her with our love and our deep respect for this life experience that claimed her full attention. We prayed for wisdom and understanding and for God’s Presence with Shannon.

Meeting the Challenge with Courage & Passion

And true to her courageous heart and mind, she met this life challenge with constant courage and persistence and she prevailed.

Her teachers provided a learning environment that helped her to grow in knowledge and experience. Her friends were clearly going through the same learning experience. Each communication success built upon a growing world of confidence. And this beautiful granddaughter of ours became a new creation before our eyes. 

She also became a deep-sea diver with great success in her 20’s. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in psychology. Today, she is a social worker specializing in therapy for the deaf.

She married Brent Shiver; they moved to Texas where Brent took a job with IBM in creating new techniques to provide deaf services for those who were both blind and deaf. They had two sons: Jax and Beckett. Sadly, Brent died of cancer three years ago leaving valuable research for the deaf world but lost to the family. Shannon is now in private practice as a psychologist in Austin, Texas.

Shannon’s story of courage and confidence is built on multiple support systems of family; the deaf community; teachers who accompanied her on her journey and family and friends who loved her through each new growth experience.

She displays a powerful level of confidence in her work and her mothering. She travels whenever she has the opportunity to do so. She is an amazing example of courage and passion. 

And she carries my heart with her wherever she goes.


For Reflection (either individually or with a group)

Read the blog. Read it a second time, maybe reading it aloud or asking someone else to read it aloud so you can hear it with different intonation and emphases. Take these questions for a walk in the woods or in your neighborhood, for a swim or a run or for a hot soak in the tub. Invite the questions to join you for tea or coffee. 


  • How do you define “fair”?
  • How have you responded to an experience in your life when a loved one faced a situation that seemed to be quite unfair?
  • What does the Bible tell us about the value God places on fairness?


Download a pdf including the Reflection Questions to share and discuss with friends, family, or members of your faith community small group.

About the Author

Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D.

The Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D. is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a licensed psychologist. She has completed a very large research study on “Spiritual Life in Mainstream Interfaith Congregations” with over 3000 participants in the study. From that extensive study, she created the “Spiritual Life Team Program” which enables people to identify and share their spiritual lives in a small group, non-psychologically oriented, setting. The groups have been 100% successful in enabling people to identify and share their spiritual lives. Dr. McKay is the minister of Spiritual Life at the Glenview Community Church. She celebrated her 50th anniversary of ordination in 2020. Dr. McKay was married to Lewis Musil who died in 2019. She has seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren!

View all articles by Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D.