“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.”
–Martin Luther King
As young girl growing up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, I attended Holy Rosary, a catholic grade school about nine blocks away from my house. My mother would always drive me to school before heading to work but more often than not, I would walk home.
Often times on my way home, I would encounter a blind man who lived nearby my school. At first, I was always too shy to say hello to him (we’ll call him Peter). But one day while waiting for him to pass me with his cane, I said hello. Peter stopped, sensed my presence and greeted me with a warm smile. We spoke candidly for a few minutes and then went our separate ways.
From then on, I would always greet Peter whenever I saw him. My heart went out to him. At this point in my life, I was always feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t want to have cerebral palsy. I didn’t want to be hearing impaired. I wanted to hear like everyone else. And what’s more, I hated the way that I walked. I hated falling so often. I hated my looks and my kinky, curly hair. I was tired of all the kids making fun of me. You get the picture. The list went on and on.
Well, somehow whenever I saw Peter my own pain and misery melted away. One day I asked him in my young innocence, how he was able to find his way around. He told that he just sensed where everything was.
When I got home that day, I wanted to see for myself what it was like to be blind so I tied a bandana around my eyes. I then walked around in my room knocking over things and bumping into the walls. Finally after about 10 minutes of feeling around, I made my way to the bed and just sat in silence staring at the darkness and thinking of Peter. Tears began to flow down my cheeks. I realized I had no right to feel sorry for myself when this kind man did not even have the gift of sight. My life wasn’t quite so bad after all.
Our brief conversations continued and I actually looked forward to the days when I would see Peter. As I said, seeing him reminded me that I actually did have a lot to be thankful for in my own life. I shall never forget one particular day. As I always did, I made my way down the street and saw Peter. Only this time, he was surrounded by a group of kids. As I got closer, I could hear Peter yelling, “Please stop! Stop!” I quickly realized that he was in trouble and began running as fast as I could towards the commotion.
When I reached the gang of about six teenaged boys who were tormenting my friend, I began pushing and shoving these kids away from Peter with every ounce of strength I had screaming and yelling, “Leave him alone!! Leave him alone!!!!
One of the boys had taken away Peter’s cane and they were poking him with it. I have no idea how much time elapsed because it felt like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone. I was so angry. I didn’t care that I was outnumbered and could surely get hurt. At first they stopped poking Peter and began laughing at me but when I didn’t back down, they eventually stopped and ran off.
Peter was standing there helpless yelling, “Are you OK? What’s going on? After a few minutes I caught my breath and told him that I was fine. But I know Peter could sense the fear in me and the tears pouring down my face. I bent down to pick up Peter’s cane and gave it to him. His hands were shaking as he took it from me and repeatedly thanked me.
Although he didn’t want me to walk him home, I did. No words were spoken as we walked side by side. There was no need to say anything for the pain and hurt we were both feeling spoke louder than words. When we reached his door, I said goodbye and turned to walk away as he called out to me, “Thank you. You have no idea what you did for me today.”
As I walked slowly home, once again tears fell from my eyes. Peter may have been blind but he, ironically, gave me the gift of sight. He gave me a new perspective on life. He helped me to realize even at a very young age that blessings are not counted in material things. They are counted in the things that cannot be bought like love, family and friends.
Peter also helped me to realize that some things are worth fighting for in life. Whether you win or lose doesn’t matter. What’s important is the journey.
October is recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month in the U.S. This blog is dedicated to all those who are disabled however that may be. May you never lose sight of your journey.