“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’ “

—1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

Blind people can do incredible things. Climb mountains, travel internationally by themselves, write epic poems, enter triathlons, ski down mountains, make art, and the list could go on and on.

Then there’s me.  

My list of incredible accomplishments reads as follows:  

Make it through the grocery store without a meltdown (mine, not the child’s); 

Successfully give my card number to a woman on the phone taking my reservation—successful after three tries, that is. Plus magnification and an explanation of why I couldn’t easily read the numbers in the first place. 
“Let’s try this number, ”  I said, trying to focus. (She thinks I stole the card, I thought.);

Correctly identify a person talking to me in the post office after only two minutes of conversation;

and here’s a biggie:  NOT FEEL ASHAMED or APOLOGIZE when I explain to the doctor’s office I can’t read the fine print on their forms. Consequently, I cannot fill them out.

Yes, I am accomplished. For real. 

As wonderful as the stories of heroic blind people are, I kind of get sick of them. THE STORIES, not the people. Because it’s not a total picture of their lives. Those are moments of victory. Great moments to celebrate, for sure, but not the norm.

I just gave you the norm. Not that our norm sells much or endears us to the public. Not that we visually-impaired people enjoy advertising our struggles.  But in an attempt at reality, let’s just be honest.

It’s a daily battle. 

I’ve observed two ways we acceptably talk about vision loss in our culture. Witness the victorious blind person, as I just mentioned, or laugh along with the blind mistakes we make. Laugh nervously, but do join in. 

Hey, sometimes it is funny, and I’ll be the first to laugh. I have my own battery of blind humor to draw on. We surely need that relief valve!

But other times, it just isn’t funny, and it can be downright dangerous.

There is a third option, also, and that is:  IGNORING the elephant in the room. This simply makes us feel forgotten or bad because we’ve made you so uncomfortable. I’ve found some people actually avoid me after I tell them about my vision problem. They think I can’t see them turning away and moving off in the opposite direction, but I can. I don’t know…maybe they’re afraid I’ll ask them for a ride or something.

So, how best to handle the dilemma of talking about vision loss in a way that neither falsely portrays success nor makes light of the struggles?

As a woman I recently encountered did—with genuine curiosity and compassion.

“You proofread the newspaper with one eye?” she asked incredulously, shaking her head.

It made me see things from her perspective, which used to be my perspective as well. But strangely, after you’ve been blind a while, it becomes normal to you.

“Funny how your thing is writing, and you lost your vision…” she mused.

I agreed and said God often allows things like this to show His power through our weakness. We both agreed with that.

Then she grabbed my hands and prayed for my eyes to heal. How sweet! She had total belief it could be done, and I do, too, though I told her I never pray for my eyes.

“It’s the glue that keeps me close to God,” I said. 

Again, she was curious and courteous. I SO appreciated her heart!

Her kind of response makes us feel heard, understood, and accepted.

See, here’s the thing:  
We blind people are blessed with an inner vision; we see people’s hearts more clearly than most. The way others react to us gives a great indication of their character.

It’s one awesome hidden benefit of vision loss I’ve discovered, and one I just decided to put on my list of accomplishments!

Journeying Along,