Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be blind? Or deaf?
My friend Ernie Jones became blind more than 20 years ago owing to retina degeneration. He writes a weekly column for a newspaper in Walla Walla, Washington. I wanted to share one of his recent columns with you:
While you go about your daily life—working, driving, caring for the house and children, watching TV, or any other activity—have you ever thought how life would be if one day you lost your hearing or eyesight? If told you had to either lose your sight or hearing, which would you choose? Are there any advantages or disadvantages of one disability over the other?
I have not had a lot of experience with people who can’t hear, but here is some of what I have learned. The deaf people I have been in touch with say they would rather not hear than not be able to see. They use their eyes to help them cover for not being able to hear.
On the other hand, the blind say it is better to hear than to be able to see, for they “see” much with their ears.
Sighted people can usually tell if a person is blind, as the blind person is being guided by another person, a guide dog, or with a cane. Those who are deaf may not even give a clue to their deafness, unless they are seen using sign language or don’t acknowledge you speaking to them until you are right in front of them.
When out walking, those who are deaf may appear to be like everyone else—they stroll along as one who has no disability. They need no help at street crossings, don’t hold a white cane, or need to be guided by a guide dog or another person. They see the street crossing signals and read the signs along the street. They enter stores with no hesitation, able to locate the items they are shopping for. They drive their car, can travel alone, and are quite independent. They don’t need a guide and only use a cane if they also have some balance problem.
But the deaf don’t hear the wind chimes in the breeze, don’t hear the birds singing in the trees overhead, don’t hear their dog bark a welcome, or the neighbor’s cow bawling, or the flock of geese flying overhead. They don’t hear the gurgling stream as it bounces over the rocks on its way to the valley below. They don’t hear beautiful music ringing forth from the choir or from happy children singing Christmas carols. Their eyes have to do double duty, working for their ears too.
People who are legally blind, but who still have enough eyesight to get around without aid in public, may be considered haughty when they don’t wave to someone nearby. I found this out from a fellow church member. When it was known that my eyesight was failing and that I had to retire early, he came to me and said, “Now I understand. I was beginning to think you were a little stuck up, for the other day you walked right past me and completely ignored me.”
I wonder how many other times I may have passed a person I knew and never greeted him or her.
I am very thankful I was not given the choice to either be blind or deaf, for I have no idea what I’d say—no one wants either disability. But speaking from blindness, I am thankful for my hearing. I am excited when in mid to late winter I hear the red-wing blackbirds back in our area, for I know spring is coming. I enjoy being part of a choir or hearing others sing, and hearing an orchestra play. Yes, I am thankful I never had to make the choice, I am thankful I can hear.
Either disability may cause frustration and confusion when out in public, both for the individual and for others.
A friend of mine, Dick, who is blind, went out to eat with one of his friends, Larry, who is deaf. Noticing Dick’s white cane, the server turned her attention to Larry, not knowing he was unable to hear.
Looking at Larry she asked, “Hello, what would you like today?” Then she added, “And what would your friend like?”
From his years of friendship with Larry, Dick had picked up some sign language, and also understood his attempts at speech. So as the waitress spoke to Larry, Dick repeated with sign language to Larry what she had asked. Larry answered Dick—in his not-so-clear voice—what he wanted, after which Dick explained Larry’s order to the server.
It became a game for the two men until at last the waitress got the message. She learned that being blind didn’t make Dick so he couldn’t talk or that his brain wasn’t working well. Nor does being deaf make the person of less worth.
Remember, both the deaf and the blind can have important roles in the community. Have a great day—and please take time to see and hear.
What a day it will be when Jesus returns and every one of the redeemed is made perfectly whole. In the meantime, look to be kind towards and understanding of those who may be dealing with personal challenges. And be thankful for the blessings of God you experience.