Don’t you wish people could see things through your eyes?
Don’t you wish that people could see things the way you see them? Wouldn’t it make things easier? There would be so many less awkward conversations explaining things or arguing points. They might still disagree with you, but at least they would understand why you think what you do.
I wish people could see things the way I do. Sometimes I wish this in a figurative sense, but most of the time I wish this in the most literal sense. My eyes see the world differently than pretty much every other person on the planet. And that leads to some really awkward interactions. I’m sure you can relate a little bit in your own life when some one thinks differently than you. We say, “They just see things differently than I do.”. But in my life, they really do SEE things differently than I do.
I’m blind. But I don’t look like it. I walk around with out bumping into things … most of the time. People look at me or meet me in a casual setting and think, ‘he’s normal’. But then I do something stupid. I trip over a stair, or can’t find something that’s sitting right in front of us. Or worse, they think I’m a stuck up jerk because I don’t’ smile, or wave, or say ‘hi’ to them as we pass. They figure, “I’ve seen him lots of times, he should at least be friendly.”. Or, “We met just last week. Why didn’t he say ‘hi’?”. Because I can’t SEE you! But they don’t know that. I mean, we just met. It’s kind of weird to just bust out with, “Oh, by the way, I’m blind”.
But now I’m starting to wonder. After years of living with this condition (I lost my sight my senior year of high school … I’ll write again to fill you in .. or read my bio) I’m starting to wonder if I SHOULD just tell people the instant I meet them, “Hi, I’m Dan. I’m blind.”. At least that way I don’t risk hurting their feelings the next time we pass and I don’t’ recognize them. And I would save myself the mental, emotional, and visual stress of TRYING to recognize people. I could just be who I am. This guy who sometime sees things, but many times doesn’t.
All of this is exacerbated right now because I’m attending a new church. And it happens to be a pretty large church (by Corvallis, OR standards). And so there are MANY new people to meet and get to know. And I like meeting new people. But on top of not being able to see well, I’m not very good remembering names. But I work at it. I think it has to do with the name being attached to a fuzzy image of a face in my mind. But I wasn’t really that good at names even before I lost my vision. … Any way. I’m up on stage quite a bit and so people think I can see them all. NOT! Those lights in your face only make things worse. And then I’ve lived in town for a long time and have lead worship a lot, so many people are familiar with me. But that doesn’t mean I am familiar with them. I WISH I was. But I’m not. I wish I could just get up in front of the church an announce to everyone how things work with me.
But even if I were to just introduce myself as ‘Blind Dan’ or get up in front of my church to tell every one, “I can’t see you, so don’t be offended when I don’t say ‘hi’”, that really wouldn’t resolve things. It’s very hard to explain the way things appear to me and what I can and cannot see. (I’ll give that a try in another post)
And that brings me to my point. Don’t you wish that you could explain to people the way that you interact with the world? Many of us try to do this by attaching little labels to ourselves. Things like political parties, or church affiliations, or statements about how we grew up. And even though these statements may be true, they only give people a clue about how we ‘see things’. And they are left to fill in the blanks for themselves. And they PROBABLY fill them in wrong. They GUESS what we probably think about topics, and when they interact with us, they have these notions in their head.
Maybe you’ve had the experience of debating a topic with someone where they just can’t understand your point of view. It might not even be that you really want them to CHANGE their point of view, but it sure would be nice if they could at least UNDERSTAND where you are coming from.
So how do we get a person to REALLY understand the way we see things? I certainly wish that I could just throw out a snappy little label and have them ‘get it’. “I’m blind”. “I’m visually impaired”. “I don’t see faces well”. “I’m a Christian”. “I’m a republican … most of the time”. “I’m a musician”. “I’m a worship leader”. “I’m a dad”. “I’m a husband”. But it just doesn’t work very well. The person hearing me say that may not have any experience with what it means to be that thing. Or if they do have experience with that label, it may be a different experience than mine. And therefore it will lead them to believe that label means something different than what I mean by it.
I guess telling people about yourself with little labels is a good start. But I hope you are following my thought here that it could also lead their perception of you astray. And yet we all long to be understood.
I don’t see any other way to allow people to really get to know us than to spend time with them and to share about our selves.
In our culture, it seems like we are on a quest to streamline everything. We want to do things as efficiently as possible. And if we can do more than one thing at a time, that’s even better. That’s why I clean the dishes while wearing one earphone that’s playing news podcasts, but the other one is open so I can tutor my daughter on her piano lesson. (It’s also why I sold both of my PC computers and am typing on a MAC at this moment.) But when it comes to getting to know people or letting people get to know us, there is no substitute for TIME.
I guess none of my friends really know what it looks like to see the world through my eyes. One of them jokes that it must look like a ‘doughnut of fog’. But since my friends have spent so much time with me, they can kind of guess what I will be able to see and what I won’t. I still surprise them. I still surprise myself. You’ll never know anyone completely. You’ll never know yourself completely. But being known or knowing completely should not be our goal. Being on the path to know others and to help them know us is the goal.
So I guess those labels are a good starting place. But they are just that; a starting place. I guess that means I need to keep telling people that I’m blind even though they won’t get it at first. But at least I have started us down the road of them being able to know me better. If I choose to not ever mention it, and let them just think I’m weird in various ways … because I bump into things from time to time or ask stupid questions, then I choose to limit how well they can know me. It may be easier on some levels to just not mention it, but I need to realize that I’m limiting how well they can know me, and that’s not worth the ease of staying silent.
I have a friend who has recently been realizing the importance of helping people know you. You can be really into others, but never let them into you. You can be really great at asking other people questions and being a good listener. But you also have to be willing to share about yourself. I think we choose for various reasons to not share of ourselves. It can be frustrating, time consuming, vulnerable, etc. But I feel we need to remind ourselves that it’s worth it … or maybe it’s just me who needs to remind myself.
I guess after years of living with this disability, I am still learning how and when to communicate it to others. But it’s a significant factor in my life, and so if people are really going to know who I am, then I guess they need to know about this part of me.