As Franklin Roosevelt’s funeral cortege passed, one mourner fell to his knees. His neighbor, touching the man’s shoulder, asked, “Did you know the President?” “No,” replied the man, “but he knew me.”
We all seek connection. In our shared humanity, we find similarities rather than differences. We’re in the same boat. We have something in common.
Into this chorus of melody and harmony comes dissonance. Add blindness and I veer toward physical isolation and emotional withdrawal. Both reactions inhibit connection. I bump into people and either shrink from their company or curse their trespass. Both reactions are rooted in fear, shame and distorted thinking. In each, I ignore the wisdom to take nothing personally. In each, I find dissonance.
I encounter disconnect through misunderstanding. I project my own insignificance and discomfort onto blameless passers-by. I perceive that many among the sighted majority believe blind people see absolutely nothing, are uniformly stupid and hear only when shouted at. Even the benignly curious, fearing the label of patronizing, preface inquiries with, “I know it’s none of my business, but…” Across three decades of diminishing eyesight, I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve been asked, “How does the world appear through your eyes? How does that feel to you?” These would be my most obvious questions, whose answers I would use to understand and connect with another’s experience.
No you do not need to be blind to know me. Start with our similarities. Chances are, we have common needs and interests. Ask if I’m a Cubs fan or a Sox fan and it’s 50/50 that we’ll high five. Ask if I’m a Bears fan and it’s a Bear hug. We are inquisitive by nature, social by need. Ask me how I’m doing. If you sense confusion, ask if you might help. By any means, connect.