What the Blind See
April 14, 2020
Leaving Israel, standing in line at Ben Gurion Airport, I saw a long-line of obviously blind Israeli teenagers making their way to a check-in counter. I watched them intently and was amazed.
In our morning prayers, there is a series of blessings we say right when we get up. These blessings are supposed to help us appreciate God’s gifts to us, but it is a struggle to make them real day after day. We thank God for giving us common sense, for giving us feet, for giving us sight, for giving us clothes and other basic needs.
When I come to the blessing that says “Thank You God for opening our eyes,” I try to imagine how difficult life would be if I couldn’t see. All the things I take for granted, I wouldn’t be able to do! I couldn’t be able to hop into my car and drive the kids to get slurpies. Life would be a lot more complex. I usually linger on this blessing for a few seconds as it is easy to make it real. It has been a good tool for me for a long time.
Thus, it was with additional interest that I observed this group of Israeli teenagers walking in. Some had seeing-eye dogs and others were led by guides, while still others were feeling their way with the red-tipped, white canes of the blind. They were traveling to New York? What kind of an experience would a blind person have touring Manhattan?
I was pondering this thought when I observed that others in the group were deaf and some of the leaders were signing to them. Oh my goodness! The Almighty had sent me a real strong message here – a group of blind and deaf teenagers to remind me how precious was my ability to see and hear!
I then saw something which jolted me. One of the group leaders was signing to one of the teens, but he wasn’t doing it the normal way – he was tracing the letters on the palm of the blind girl’s hand. I watched and tried to make sense of what I was seeing. It took a few seconds for it to sink in, and then it hit me! This young girl was not only deaf, but she was also blind. She couldn’t see the signs. She had to feel them drawn on her palm. It was mind-boggling to me.
Here I get frustrated when the Almighty challenges me with a delayed flight or a sore shoulder from weight-lifting (my own fault). Imagine the challenges this young woman must put up with every second of every day. When I come to the morning blessings each day, I will draw up this experience from memory and linger on it. I will let it sink into my bones and try to feel deep appreciation for God’s bountiful kindness to me.
Still, I couldn’t help keep wondering how she feels when she says these morning blessings. I suppose she is thankful she has legs and she is alive. I admired her courage. I wished I had gone over to her and talked to her somehow. I wondered what she was looking forward to in visiting the Big Apple. What would that experience be like for someone living in darkness and silence? When I walk through the streets of Manhattan I will often think of her and it will help me feel appreciation for the simple things in life.
I have a regular morning practice to help make real the things I want to be aware of in my life. One of the things I do, is every day, I take a few minutes to write out my “gratitudes”. I then say each one out loud and try to let it sink into my bones and to make it real.
Thank You God for opening my eyes. Thank You!
John Newton’s “Amazing Grace”, reminds me of this. Incidentally, John was a slave-trader, who saw the error of his ways, converted to Christianity and later became blind! This is the first stanza:
Amazing grace-how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.