For the first six years of my life I was I was nearly blind and no one knew, not even me. My parents figured I was fine; I could read, write, and speak fluently. But I made my way through life missing all the cues that other kids caught on to:
- The Stink Eye when I was misbehaving,
- Someone pointing to the door and then heading for it, leaving me behind,
- Avoiding moldy food from the bottom of the crisper.
Not one person guessed I was blind, they just figured I was weird. They were okay with that, the weirdness, and so was I. I didn’t talk a whole lot, but was probably preoccupied by navigating my environment. So they’re thinking they’ve got me in a nutshell, right? I’m the confused kid of their batch. I was the one who doesn’t listen well, unless you’re yelling right at her. They had no idea I couldn’t hear them half the time because I couldn’t read their lips. They didn’t imagine that I missed those fine details due to impaired vision.
I happen to have a brave and outspoken sister, with perfect vision, who spent a lot of her time protecting me. She kept me out of traffic and away from beehives and all things deadly. I followed her lead faithfully. She never imagined I couldn’t see, but it wasn’t her job to: she was older, but only by a few years. And so it went, people saying that I was odd, and a little bit spacey although harmless. Her nutshell was that she was loud and controlling, especially with her little sister.
Then came the day I learned to see. I had been squinting for a few weeks, to cope with the added visual stresses of being in a classroom, when my mother caught on. She brought me to an optometrist who checked my eyesight, and sent me home a few weeks later with enormous pink glasses. Calling my glasses enormous is not an exaggeration. They were thicker than the lenses that people call coke bottles, and wider that your average pair of safety goggles. They lay on my face like a license plate, from ear to ear. I was delighted.
In the car on the way home, I kept reading billboards aloud. Before that day, I couldn’t even understand the point of billboards. Who can see that? I read our street sign as we turned on to the block where we lived, and started to cry. My mother wondered out loud what might be the matter, and I told her I must have an allergy. Fact is, I was crying from relief, so happy that I could finally see.
When we got to our house, I walked through it really slowly, noticing that the shag- tastic carpet in the family room was actually purple, green, orange, red, and gold – not brown. That explained why we had red curtains, and green throw pillows, and a golden table that held a television that I rarely ever watched. I could go on, but you get the point – I had a whole new world.
Over egg salad served in a hollowed out peach later that day (What? It was the seventies!) I told my mother thank you. Repeatedly. I said it when I noticed the flowered pattern on her wedding china. And yet again I said thanks when I looked out of the patio door and saw birds, and flowers, and individual blades of grass in the garden. It was breathtaking, and beyond beautiful.
She thought I was being ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop. Everything I saw, I loved. Finally, she told me if I didn’t stop thanking her and get out of her hair, I’d have to go have a nap.
That is what this experiment of listening to God has been like. I was walking through my very own life, trying to figure out stuff by myself. Taught by spending my formative years in isolation, I was not in the habit of asking for guidance. I thought I had to do things on my own, or rely on others to protect me. And then, I got glasses simply by asking God what ought to be my next step, and respecting the answer.
The best thing about it has been that when I thank God, I don’t get on her nerves. I don’t have to get sent off by myself to wait for the feeling to pass. I can say thanks one hundred times a day, and the only consequence is more things to be happy for. I am not spacey, or weird – I never was. I just couldn’t see the external world clearly.