Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inspiration: Blinded By Sight

Rarely do I write a personal blog, but this has really been on my mind this past week and I thought I'd share my recent inspiration. Let me give you some backstory (the first half of this blog)...

I was drawn to working* with children because of their simplicity. There is an innocent bluntness about them that LACKS a filter--which keeps me on my toes.

One child inparticular has fascinated and inspired me so much so that I’m going to blog about it. Let me introduce Jacob** , an adorable 8 year old who loves reading, jumping on the trampoline and can tell you anything about baseball because it is his favorite sport. You can find him skipping down the hallway or chatting with his friends. He is very inquisitive, asking about anything and everything. What makes Jacob so different is that he is BLIND.

I promise if you weren’t looking closely, he blends right in with his classmates. The only difference is that he reads Braille instead of regular books. Jacob doesn’t walk around the school with a walking stick—he actually knows the campus so well that he literally tries to jog to class sometimes—just like any other child. He is spunky and doesn’t see his blindness as a weakness, but as something that makes him unique.

I saw this when I witnessed Jacob meeting a new friend the other day. “Hey...can you see anything?” a curious little boy asked, as he ran up and waved two hands frantically in front of Jacobs face.
“Well…” (looking in the direction of the little boy) “I can see some color, but other than that—nope! I can’t!”
“What’s your name? Would you like to play Bop It with me?” Jacob responded.
“Okay!” and the boys proceeded to play a game of Bop-It. The little boy didn't see Jacob's blindness as an issue because Jacob didn't make it one. See? Simple.

Working with Jacob has really challenged my thinking—I saw it as an obstacle to work around and he is so at ease that he sees it as something special. I couldn’t resist asking him about his story when we first met. He wasted no time asking me about mine! He told me how it was hard when he was a baby, but now he knows every familiar environment almost by heart—and almost everyone’s voice in the entire school! Of course I had to test him one day and when I called to him, he shot back "oh hey Mrs. Rose!"

SN: He showed me how he reads Braille and even read the Braille under the “storage” sign by my room (and promptly told me that “somebody made a mistake—this says 'Korage!'”). How funny! But I digress...

It’s so amazing to me how in tune with his other senses he is—instead of depending on vision to guide him—he uses his heightend sense of sound, smell and touch.

Working with Jacob has reminded me of two experiences that I have had. 1. Watching that Val Kilmer movie At First Sight where (**spoiler alert) Val Kilmer’s character has an operation (because his girlfriend urges him to) to restore his sight after a lifetime of being blind—and once he is able to see, he is lost, because he only knew what things looked like by touch. Therefore he would see an apple and have no idea what it was until he picked it up and felt it. Didn't think of that, did you? He went on to hate being able to see and started blindfolding himself so that he wouldn’t feel so lost in this world. His girlfriends plan backfired on her and in fact she was the one who wasn't able to see that as a possible outcome.

How crazy is it that we assume a blind person would be lost in our world when in fact sight is sometimes what screws us up! It is sight that causes us to be judgmental and superficial. And sight that causes so many prejudices and at times segregates this broken world. Yeah--marinate on that for a minute. Sight is a strong source of sensory information--so much so that many times it overrides our other senses—(hence optical illusions).

The second thing I thought of was a beautiful experience I had with my sister-in-law last summer in Atlanta calledDialogue In The Dark”***. This is an exhibit that was a little over an hour and was in TOTAL darkness. That’s right—they take away your vision so that you can truly experience how a blind person feels in our world. How amazing and profound it was to have to rely only on my sense of touch, smell and sound!

Prior to entering, you are equipped with a walking stick and later hear that you will be following a guide (who is blind) and then you are guided through a variety of environments that you may encounter on a typical day. At first I was terrified of the darkness, and felt lost and alone in the pitch black of our first location--but quickly located the voice of my sister-in-law and my heart stopped pounding as we grabbed each others hands tightly the rest of the tour.

They don’t give you any hints as to where you are—you have to use your other senses to figure it out. You even have to recognize and follow your guide’s voice in a crowd of people to know when to walk and where to walk to. By the end of the tour I knew by the clearing of his voice which guide was mine and in which direction I needed to walk to stand by him.

The one thing that you don’t realize until the very end of the tour, is that you only know the voice (and approximate height) of your guide. So when you exit into the light and you can see again, you find yourself in a large crowd--but you have no idea who your guide is until he speaks! I had this image in my head of this 65 year old, gray haired, paper thin skinned chocolate man based on his voice alone—and in fact he looked like a 38ish year old, fare toned Bernie Mac! How funny that a voice alone created an image in my head based on my previous life experiences and visual influences. What If I had never seen before like Jacob? I wonder how I would imagine then?

The highlight of the tour was the very end, where we got to ask our guide whatever we wanted. People asked him about his life, how he came to be blind, and even how it has affected him. It was refreshing that he had such a positive outlook on his life—and even though he lost his vision as an adult (from getting accidentally shot with a stray bullet by being in the wrong place at the wrong time) he took it as a blessing, and talked about how he wouldn’t have met all of the wonderful people that he has if it wasn’t for his accident.

I feel honored to have met 2 people in a similar situation BOTH with such a positive outlook on life, considering how much others would see it solely as an obstacle.

This has inspired me to appreciate what I have and to know how truly amazing it is to be able to see the vibrant colors, landscapes, beautiful faces, and scenery in the world around me. It has also opened my eyes to see that sometimes you don't have to have vision to appreciate other beautiful things in this world...personality, laughter, the sounds of nature and my personal favorite--hugs.

Maybe this has tickled your brain enough to sink in. My hope is that it will influence your way of thinking and allow you to appreciate the little things that you have been blessed with that make YOU unique. Appreciate yourself today. Flaws and all...

Have a great Monday!


P.S. I also encourage you to try the Dialogue In The Dark tour if you are in the Atlanta area--it would be a great family outting, girlfriend get together, or second+ date! Definately makes for great conversation!

*Professionally, I am a certified/licensed pediatric occupational therapist—and I’m a badass!

**names have been changed to protect the innocent

***Dialogue in the Dark has been presented in over 30 countries and more than 160 sites in over 110 cities throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East and America since it’s opening in 1988. So far, over 6 Million visitors have experienced Dialogue in the Dark worldwide, and over 6,000 blind candidates have found employment through Dialogue in the Dark. In the USA, there is an exhibit in Atlanta, Georgia.

1 comment:

  1. EB, this was great! I've found sharing personal experiences on my blog help me as well as educating and sharing with my readers! Well done! And you like hugs?!?! Where's my REAL Sproomie!?!? :) (Just kidding!) I'm going to look to see if Dialogue in the Dark is coming to DC.


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