by Marty Klein, Woodstock, New York
I walked out of my house the other day to get the mail. My mailbox is on the road at the beginning of my driveway, about 50 or so feet away from my front door. I’ve made that little jaunt thousands of times in the 30 years that I have lived in this house, and I have never had a problem getting the mail–no problem in snow or rain, heat or cold, night or day. As I was pulling out the mail, my neighbor, whom I hadn’t seen in months since I left for the warmer winter in the South, pulled up in his car. He rolled down the window and said, “Need a hand with anything?”
I was initially stunned by his comment, but took the high road–shook my head politely and waved to him as I began to walk back to my house. He drove away.
I walked up the three steps to my front door, turned around and paused, thinking about what had just happened. My neighbor has known me for about 20 years, and after countless attempts to communicate with him about my ability rather than about my disability, he still sees me as constantly in need of help. I thought how amazing it was that after 40 years of being blind I still have to put up with that kind of nonsense from some people. A more normal response from him would have been something like, “Hi, Marty.” Or, “Welcome back home.” But that was not the greeting I received.
During the time that I’ve been totally blind, I have accomplished quite a lot–much more without sight than I ever did when I had sight. I’m happier and more relaxed as a blind person than I ever was when I could see. Yet no matter who I am and how much I have accomplished, there will always be a few people who will only see me as blind and in need of help. It’s frustrating on one level, but fascinating on another. This is a perfect place to use the slogan, “You can’t fix stupid!”
Thanks to my yoga practice and my desire not to engage with toxic negativity, I was able to smile peacefully at him and walk away quietly. But there is, I must admit, a part of me that would have liked to scream some very harsh, invalidating words to him at the top of my lungs.
It’s important for all of us who are blind or visually impaired to understand that some people will never see us as completely fine, able or happy. Some of those people will always feel sorry for us because we cannot see. Some will always see us as helpless and a burden to our families and communities. I often say prayers for those people: May God bless them and keep them … far away from me!
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Marty Klein is the author of the Amazon bestseller, THE ENLIGHTENED GAMBLER, THE HEART AND SPIRIT OF THE RISK TAKER IN ALL OF US. You can find out more about his work at www.theenlightenedgambler.com and on Facebook as The Enlightened Gambler. He has also produced a five-CD program, BEGINNING YOGA FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED, with information at www.blindyoga.net.