Last month I was in the state of Maine, attending a church camp for blind folks, and someone asked me the question: How would your life have been different if you were sighted instead of blind? A really tough question. “Well,” I laughed, “For one thing, I probably wouldn’t be here at this blind camp. But then, maybe I would–as a sighted counselor.”
Next, I thought, I probably wouldn’t know or use Braille–unless I happened to be a teacher of blind children. Hmm. “Okay. Well,” I said, “I might have gone off alone to Mexico at 18 to learn Spanish. But, by golly, I did do that, didn’t I? Well, I might have become a radio disk jockey, an English instructor, a TV commentator, or even an HR manager with a Fortune 500 company.”
The fact is, I did all those things. So, how might my life have been different if I had been sighted? I honestly don’t know. Did I do those things in spite of my blindness or because of it? What makes us what we are? How does adversity shape our lives? It can make us stronger, more determined, or it can break us. Each day we are presented with adversities, challenges–an accident, an illness, the loss of a job or of a loved one. How we respond and react to these adversities and challenges reveals our expectations about the future, our attitude toward life.
I have been called a cock-eyed optimist, and I guess maybe I am. I believe most people are kind and good in spite of the horrific recent shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin. I believe our nation’s economy will get better. I even believe that most of our politicians are trying to do the right thing, even though I may not agree with them about their definition of the right thing.
But back to the original question. How might my life have been different if I had been sighted instead of blind? My answer is that my blindness is just a part of me, like my height and my big feet. But it is not the whole of me. We are complex composites of a wide array of attributes, talents, influences, and experiences. We are unique, each of us an individual snowflake. There is no one characteristic, condition, or category which defines who we are. We are one. And our “special oneness” is what we offer to enhance and enrich the beautiful mosaic of the human community.