Friday, April 13, 2012

Blind and Sight

In my undergraduate days at BYU I had a scholastic scholarship that paid for tuition, but living and books were from my pocket. The $50 per month I received from ROTC helped with my rent and some of the groceries, but I was still a little short and I did not want to borrow money.  So I got a job with the university reading for a blind student.  The pay was not great, but a box of corn flakes was 43 cents then, so it balanced out.  
I was assigned to read for a young man, about 19 years old, from somewhere in southern Utah.  He was majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in music.  My job was to read his text assignments to him and to go with him to his class when he had a test or quiz and read that for him, too.  His name was Glen.  Not really, but that is what I’ll call him.  As I think about it, I learned a lot more from Glen than he learned from me.  We got along very well and I soon learned that he was fully involved in life.
For instance, Glen did not like carrying the traditional white cane.  He was acutely aware of what was going on around him and seemed to get along just fine with out the cane.  One time I was walking from one building to another with him and I tried an experiment.  At BYU, when the weather is nice, every sidewalk intersection between classes is a loose traffic jam of students standing and talking about whatever subject needed airing.  So as we headed along the walk to his next class, which I think was chemistry, I purposefully led him toward one of those gaggles at an intersection.  I wanted to see how he would pick his way through the crowd.  To throw in a factor of difficulty, I kept up a conversation with Glen as we walked.  He picked his way through the congestion without a mishap.  I was impressed with Glen’s ability to carry on a conversation and still be fully aware of his surroundings by listening and feeling.
Sometimes I went with Glen to a room in the library that was a designated assembly point for blind students on campus.  They all knew each other by voice and would call out a greeting as soon as someone else entered.  “Hi Glen!  It’s nice to see you,” one of them called out cheerfully. Another conversation going on included “well, let’s take a look at that,” and another young lady cheerily bid good-by with “see you later.”  I remember thinking something like, “You can’t use that word.  You can’t see anything.”  But it was not long until I learned that I was very wrong.  They could see things I was not even aware existed.  
One afternoon I had just finished reading an exam for Glen and he wanted to get to the Cannon Center at Helaman Halls for lunch before they stopped serving it.  Because Glen didn’t like the cane, he had a peculiar way of swinging his arms in a little circle in front of him so he could feel if he was about to bump into something and change course.  He turned quickly from me and ran smack into a door that was left open.  Ouch!  The force of the encounter knocked him backward a little, but he quickly recovered and, without any complaint, he adjusted his direction through the open door and on down the path to the lunch room.  I stood amazed.
My experience with Glen was a real eye-opener.  I have often thought of spiritual eyes and how the Light of Christ affects our vision.  When I read a phrase like “eyes of understanding” or “a vision opened up” I see things differently than I did before.  In a classroom discussion when one of the students asked if any of our Church leaders have seen Jesus, a whole new field opened up to me.  I thought, “If one of those leaders happened to not have physical sight, would it make any difference?”  Of course it would not.  Blind people can see God as well as sighted people.  That gift of vision comes through The Holy Ghost.  I have an increased awareness of my surroundings through a different kind of sight.  I often feel deep gratitude for having had the experience of seeing the bigger picture.  Truly, the blind can lead the sighted.

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