You don’t look blind.” Ah, yes, I hear it almost every time I am out in public. Usually the conversation starts with questions about my guide dog. Many think I am training him, because I “just don’t look blind.” I’ve even been accused of being “to pretty” to be blind. Hmmmm, really? What does blind even look like?
I get it. I understand the question. I know why people are asking. We expect a blind person to wear dark glasses at all times, or to have eyes that stare into the distance. Although that can be true in some cases, it’s just not always the case. And because most do not know a blind person, they can only go by what they have seen on TV and in movies. And so, I don’t mind the questions. I’m okay answering and educating people on being blind. It’s really ok. Plus, I just like people and this question is always a great conversation starter! And, if people don’t talk to me, well, I don’t see them!
Now, ask yourself this question, how often do you think you know something about someone or about a situation based on only what you can see? The answer is probably daily. We take in information by outward appearance and make a decision on the person or situation based on sight only. We think we understand why a person is a certain way, or does something or reacts in a particular way. We quickly jump to conclusions in our mind without knowing what is happening behind the scene.
Often things are not as they appear. I’m guilty of this. Truthfully, I don’t want to “look blind,” whatever that looks like. Most days, I just want to be another face in the crowd. I prefer to just be like everyone else. So,, I guess I’m guilty of trying to look like I’m sighted. Because I’m able to see some shapes, light and dark, I will use my eyes to “look” around a room or to look at a person’s face. They think I’m making eye contact. Really, I’m just trying to look normal, and if I don’t keep my eyes moving a little, they go all kinds of weird. My right eye will drift outward and then, oh the confusion and panic others go through, “which eye is looking at me and where do I look?” Which, by the way, at times can be quite entertaining! My kids love this, especially when I’m giving them a serious talking to, they act like they are panicked because they don’t know which eye to look at, usually bringing us all to laughter. My normal is not a sighted person’s normal, so why do I try? Well, I think it’s the same reason why we smile when the pain is deep inside. It’s the same reason we dress to impress. It’s the same reason we post only the perfect family moments on social media. We just want to be accepted and loved.
I work at embracing the “normal” my life is. I have to be creative so I can do the same things a sighted person does. I have to process the awkward moments and trust me there are some doozies!! I sometimes will share them as a #DayInTheLifeOfABlindLady, because that is the only way to explain it! Sometimes I amaze myself at how I overcome the inconvenience of being blind. There are days that I just get frustrated, because frankly it can stink! And often I remind myself to laugh, because really, sometimes it is just funny.
I want to leave you with a couple things to think about. First, can we stop judging a person or situation based only on what we can take in at a glance or based on what we think we know. A persons life goes much deeper than what we can see. Maybe a kind word or a smile to that grumpy guy will change the course of his day. Maybe an understanding response to a mom who is dealing with the toddler who is screaming because he can’t have his way. Or, maybe buying lunch for the person on the corner who is asking for assistance will help them to hope again.
And secondly, if you are that person who is trying to look ok, who is trying to overcome life’s difficulties, or maybe a curve ball was just thrown your way. Be brave and reach out to those around you. Be courageous and take the risk to find those people who will walk the dark parts of life with you. It takes courage and it is a risk, because there are selfish people who don’t get it. But, I am convinced that there are way more good people out there, and guess what? They need you too!