Yesterday, I listened to a woman tell the story of her blindness. Like me, she has RP and, like me, she has partial sight. She’s my age, married, no kids. We have much in common.
She told her story to a roomful of people like us. She wept while telling how she’d had to quit her job and stop driving as her eyesight waned. She spoke of walking independently, then with her cane, now with her dog. We all felt for her; her story was our own. We have the bond of a shared disability.
Then she said she can still read her mail. Read it with the naked eye. And I thought, “Read the mail? That ain’t blind.” And I lost my connection with her.
Her talk ended. I shuffled to the bus stop. I could read no street signs, no bus numbers. Five years ago I could. But she can, and she thinks she’s got it bad. The nerve!
I know my reaction had nothing to do with what I see and everything to do with what I feel. And my indignation passed as swiftly as my rush to judgment. Now I feel grief and shame. Profound grief and pain over what I feel I’ve lost. Shame in my arrogance that anyone whom I judge as having lost less than I has not lost at all. Arrogance that I discount another’s ordeal as trivial. From this yardstick, am I then simply a novice, an amateur, to the totally blind? I, who rail against the divisiveness of separating by differences rather than connecting through similarities. Am I that much a hypocrite?
I need balance. I need clarity. I’m taking my quandary to a friend whose kindness and honesty I find enlightening. I’ll let you know what she makes of this. Meanwhile, what do you say?