Seeing through Blindness
While helping a friend return an electronic vision aid he bought for his father at the Lighthouse for the Blind in New Orleans, I was once again taught important refinement lessons without ever asking to enroll in class. Being purged in an instant is as subtle as being pickpocketed through tight crowds and it brings on a strange self-awareness only after knowing you’ve been hit.
As I paced through the product shelving glancing at things in their store, I was struck by the irony of ‘looking’ at items for the blind. When shopping, we evaluate our options without much thought as to the gift of sight, but most of their patrons haven’t been afforded that normalcy and instead, have to learn new ways. While patiently perusing magnifying glasses and braille chess boards, I was preoccupied with an empathetic dualism as I tried to imagine not being able to see. Touching minute braille patterns gave me pause to think beyond mere grabbing and each item revealed itself as an agent of mercy.
Then, as if being assaulted by a robbery in progress, a mid-30’s man about six feet tall, darted in past the counter and zipped straight to my face then back to the counter and then up to the watch case and yelped in inaudible spurts and grunts; his hands semi-flailing a bit as he tapped his own watch repeatedly. My first thought was to defend myself, since he so quickly violated our space until I saw that he couldn’t see. He was legally blind. Then I understood that he couldn’t speak either; nothing beyond a few variant sounds. Suddenly and softly, as if a Linus blanket had been draped over me, my heart shifted.
The store manager, who was preoccupied with our return paperwork at the time, quietly told us that this anxious fellow was an employee. Apparently, he scares most visitors by his invasive demeanor and impatient stammering. Here, in the midst of what was supposed to be just another routine refund in a retail store, was a vivid picture of life, splendor and corruption. Mercy and grace were dancing right in front of me within a banner of the Fall as I keenly watched his every move.
Beauty and death were exercising in the same parallel, at the same time – strange partners and roommates in a fallen corridor. The random click of cane taps beat out a pattern in the hallway as another visually impaired person passed by. All of us, made in His image, yet carrying the effects of sin in our very bodies. All around me were crooked backs, high blood pressures, hearing losses, blindness – all remnants of the Eden event where man fell into hopeless disrepair and in the center of this choreography – mercy. There was mercy, grace abounding through tireless effort and compassion. Invention turned to aid. Regular routines transformed into encouragement.
Every ounce of grumbling from the past few months about my own challenges and trials was pressed out of me by the grinding of greater tribulation. I was, again, tutored by new reminders of how God cares for us even when He isn’t obligated to care and how He uses many avenues to bring that grace into our lives. His main instrument is people. We are the conduits of purposed affection and change – agents of mercy sent from His inner sanctum through the empowerment of Spirit as He lives and breathes through our good works.
He chose to do so before you were even born.