Because I happen to be a person who happens to be blind, I qualify for certain specials. Reduced fares on buses, trains and taxis. I get to bring my Seeing Eye dog into McDonald’s. Many people go out of their way to help me. Some folks even tell me I’m inspirational.
Having good role models helped inspire me to come out of my blind isolation. I like to think I might be a role model to others. But if I let things get to my head, I’m in trouble. I might think that, while other people might have needs, I have special needs.
I was reminded of this ego trap while listening to Beth Finke’s fine book, “Long Time, No See.” Beth is wise and kind – wise in her insight, kind to share it. She writes:
“You might not think arrogance would result from a new disability. Self-doubt, even self-hatred. Perhaps. But ever since I’d lost my sight, people had told me how wonderful I was, had applauded me for even the slightest accomplishment. I was praised for buckling my own seat belt, applauded for tying [my son] Gus’s shoes, revered for washing the dishes. Hardly a day passed without somebody telling me I was smart, courageous or even inspirational. And because losing my sight and bearing a severely handicapped child hadn’t killed me, nor had I killed myself, I felt immortal. I was convinced that my crises had left me with wisdom that made me superior to those around me. It was an odd assortment of feelings to lug around. I could be unsure of myself when pouring hot water for tea, while matching Gus’s socks, but at the same time, oddly invincible. The self-confidence that had served me well when I was first coping with blindness had gradually morphed into ugly arrogance.”
I like to be told I’m special, that I have value, that I measure up. At the same time, I need to remember I’m not so important as to forget how others carry their own burdens with grace and courage.
NOTE: Beth’s memoir, “Long Time, No See” was published in 2004 by the University of Illinois Press. It is available in formats from print to NLS digital book, where its catalog number is DB 56482. In addition, Beth’s award-winning book, “Hanni and Beth: Safe and Sound,” nominally a children’s book, is similarly available in print and audio book, DB 67181. Check out Beth’s blog at www.bethfinke.wordpress.com. And thanks to Beth for permission to include the excerpt from her book.