I’ve been asking myself how on earth to get this blog thing back on track… life just seems to keep getting in the way! The answer found me this morning in the form of an experience that left me appreciating the mere fact that I get to see the world… and reminded me how much I love to share what I see.
As I was walking home from the métro station, I noticed a man in his late-20s or early-30s standing by the side of the road. He was looking in my general direction, and appeared to be talking to someone behind me. I looked over my shoulder but didn’t see anyone. It wasn’t until I had just passed him that I noticed he was carrying a cane… and realised he was simply talking to anybody who could hear him. He was asking for help to cross the road.
It wasn’t a plea. There was no tone of sympathy-seeking in his voice. This was a simple request for assistance from a man who couldn’t see the oncoming traffic to someone who could. Anyone who could. I answered his request.
It’s funny how changing one aspect of a situation changes everything. As I reached for his arm to guide him, I was struck by the realisation that in normal circumstances I would never take the arm of a strange man. His request placed all of his trust in another unknown human and my response somehow sealed this instant bond of trust between us, a bond that allowed for immediate physical contact.
The experience tested my French… I had never before needed to think of the specific language to describe stepping up and down gutters and footpaths, how to explain that there was an unusual metal object blocking the path, or how to describe how wide the space between the garbage bin and the gutter or the two parked cars was. Turning vision into words in my non-native tongue was certainly a challenge, but an interesting one, and we continued successfully not only across the road, but down the side street, round the corner and along to his destination, the post office.
This man was from Senegal, had lived in France for 14 years and had been blind for 8. He had been born with sight but had lost it. Completely. Whilst in his teens or 20s. Not only had he gone through the traumatic experience of losing his sight, he was able to express what had happened in terms of the famous French expression “c’est la vie”. His world had not been brought to a halt. This was the hand he had been dealt and it was clear that he saw it as being up to him to make the most of it.
It was a humbling experience, and an enriching one. This simple exchange instantly awakened a part of me that sleeps all too often… my gratitude. As I walked away from this admirable man who found the courage to overcome the loss of his sight, every single fibre of my being felt grateful. Grateful to be able to walk. To talk. To be in Paris. And to be able to see it all.
As I continued my walk home, I found my sense of sight heightened. I noticed the colours, I noticed the textures, I noticed the buildings and the people. I saw and appreciated in a way that I don’t usually see or appreciate. The gratitude settled in as the foundation, and allowed the appreciation to build up on top. It was a whole new way to see the world.
I hope that I will remember this interaction, both in the short term and far into the future. I hope I will remember how different the world can look if we change our perspective just a little, if we take the time to be grateful for what we do have instead of getting trapped in the cycle of seeing mostly what we don’t. And I hope I brought a little bit of brightness into this man’s world today, as some small compensation for the perspective and inspiration he brought into mine.