After reading peer advisor Sheila Rousey’s post for Random Acts of Kindness week, and the rewards that come from being open to the act of giving and receiving, I am reminded of how being visually-impaired is an unexpected gift we give to ourselves and to others.
As a person with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), I accept that carrying a long white cane attracts attention as if I am parading on the grand stage of life: curious stares bring a smile to my face as I stride out on a mission, or go out on a limb.
The overwhelming kindness I have experienced from people I have never met attracted to offer help as if by ‘magic’ on seeing my white cane amazes me.
Change of Heart
Once upon a time, I wouldn’t have held a white cane even to save my life, which it often does now. Back then, I felt embarrassed to let the world know I had a visual impairment, afraid of being seen as a burden to my family or to my community.
Years later, the change of heart came about from letting go of my own ‘story’ I had built around the image of using a cane. Once I really understood it was a tool for my independence and not a social hindrance, my world totally changed.
Not only have I learned to let go of self-doubt and accept my limitations with a visual impairment but my cane also ‘speaks’ of acceptance from my community.
The Cane Speaks the Language of Assistance
Out of the shadow of a grey city street, a friendly voice inquires, “Can I help you?” Or a body-presence sidles up close and gently touches my arm, “Do you need any help?” At these moments of random kindness, I feel a great sense of privilege, for in a busy city where we are not expected to make eye contact with strangers, where people walk around to dodge each other’s path, who stare through windows on trains and who never speak to a fellow traveler: I am happy to say, my experience of interacting with those I have never met is richly different.
In an instant, I have the unexpected aid of a total stranger. Often I accept gladly, knowing how much easier it is to say yes to their practical offer to locate a building, the correct entrance or flight of stairs rather than soldier on alone. The surprising truth is that carrying my “magic cane” is like holding a jeweled sceptre which makes me feel as dignified as royalty – without the hounds of the paparazzi hot on my heels!
It Takes Two for a Win-Win
My blindness brings kindness from young mothers, from business men, from foreign tourists, from tram drivers, from waiters, from shop keepers and would you believe, occasionally even from a person a little under the influence of alcohol. When we allow others to offer their generous spirit to help solve a problem, we are allowing them to receive a sense of joy too. You can hear it in their voice. Their kind tone assures you that their eagerness to help is a genuine pleasure. The giving and receiving in the act of kindness brings a sense of purpose to their life, no matter how brief the encounter.
An unexpected touching moment came one day when a security guard who offered to walk with me through a maze of corridors, stairs and elevators of a city building to help me locate the right office, was only too happy to escort me safely through human traffic to give him a legitimate excuse to have a coffee break. At touching moments like these, I can’t help but wonder if this is the unexpected gift being blind or visually-impaired brings to our lives and to those we meet?
The opportunity to trust in each other’s act of random kindness has the potential to turn a life around in ways we may never know. To those who bestow their kindness on humanity, I really Thank You!