It’s interesting some times to see some of the reactions we get from different people or questions they ask us with respect to our blindness. Just when I think I’ve encountered them all, someone throws me a curve ball which makes me smile.
As I’ve mentioned, we recently moved. Because our church boundaries are based on geographical areas, we now attend a different building of the same church. So, we have been meeting lots of new people and I’m sure, been the object of a little curiosity as a “blind couple.” My husband usually leaves after the first hour, sacrament meeting, and goes home. Before, our building was close enough that he could walk home. This one is a little bit further and there is no transportation in the area. It’s still walk able, but takes about twenty minutes. One of his first Sundays there, he decided to try the walk home. I walked him to the exit and we were stopped by a lady who wanted to introduce herself to us. After a brief, pleasant conversation with her, Jesse, who had been standing half inside the door and half out, just wanted to confirm with her which direction the street was once he went out of the building. He hadn’t walked this route before, so he just wanted to get a couple of directions to orient him. I should point out that she is Japanese and said her English wasn’t too great for giving directions, so she grabbed her husband who was just a few feet away down the hall. He came over, introduced himself, answered Jesse’s questions, and then left to go meet with someone else. The woman however, seemed very reluctant to let Jesse leave. She kept asking him questions like whether he was sure he wanted to walk or if he wouldn’t rather have her husband drive him home. Jesse assured her that he was fine and would figure things out. He told her that this was his first time on this route and he wanted to practice walking it. Again, hesitating, she finally let the door close which she somehow had assumed hold of during the conversation.
Jesse left, and I was left standing in the doorway with her. She looked at me a little pleadingly as if to encourage me to stop him from leaving because she was sincerely worried for him. She even asked me if I was sure he would be all right. I assured her that he was fine and he did this sort of thing (traveling in unfamiliar areas) all the time. I even threw in the fact that he works with Congress and finds his way all over Capitol Hill (hoping this would give her some confidence in his abilities.) I then pointed to my own cane and told her how we both were blind and that we learn new areas by walking them and figuring things out. What happened next totally caught me by surprise. She started crying! It was so sweet and startling, and just weird all at the same time. Basically, she was apologizing to me for the fact that we were blind and how hard it must be fore us, especially with a child. Normally, this might have been a little offensive, but she just seemed so genuine as if it were her fault we were blind. I found myself having to console her and assure her that we were fine and okay with the fact that we were blind and that she didn’t need to worry, but that I appreciated her thoughts. . . I just found the whole thing a little humorous because typically shouldn’t I be the one being consoled about my blindness, not the other way around? (Not that I feel sorry for myself much about my blindness anymore). Anyway, it gave me a good opportunity to start educating her about the capabilities of blind people. After a few minutes of explaining our situation, I finally convinced her that we were fine and she and I headed back into the next class. Jesse and I had a good chuckle about it afterwards when I got home and told him what had happened after he left.
The next Sunday she came up and said hi to me and informed me that she had been assigned as my “visiting teacher”, (our church assigns a companionship of two women to each woman within the ward, and these women are encouraged to help befriend each other, offer service, and share a spiritual message with their visitee each month. It’s a way of helping to provide support to each other and a chain of command to help our bishop know of needs that may be going on in the ward with various families.) I smiled a little to myself at this news as I’m sure we will have lots to discuss and that I’ll be answering lots of questions from her. I actually welcome the opportunity. By the way, she’s treated me pretty normally since then, and seems genuinely interested in becoming friends with me for me, and not because I’m blind, so that’s a good start. Who knows what will happen next. J