It was late afternoon and I was leaving my flat to do some shopping for a few things. As I stepped out onto the street and casually surveyed my surroundings I saw a blind man across the road standing on one side of a street, stopped and obviously about ready to try to cross it. He had in his hands a long walking rod with a cork about the size of a tennis ball at the bottom that he was feeling the road with. As I looked at the path ahead of him I thought to myself this guy is going to have a tough time of it; the curb step was steep, there was a load of road works in the middle with loose paving stones scattered everywhere, and the other curb side was blocked by tightly packed cars. I really believed he wasn’t going to make it without some help, so I took a step forward… and so did he.
With gentle skill he probed away at the curb to determined its depth and stepped off without a hint of a stumble, just a nice evenly balanced step. The cork of the cane kept bobbing in short spaced intervals just in front of him until it hit the first collection of stacked paving stones, then the rhythm of movement changed to very quick taps sweeping in wide arcs. His head tilted back and fro as if he was watching something only he could see. I could only guess he was using some sort of spatial location awareness to build up a 3D map of what his cane was feeding him. With precision he picked his way through the gaps of the paving stone stacks, navigated over the paved and unpaved road sections and then confronted the cars. I really thought this was going to give him some grief, because really they were a wall with the last one sitting to one side of a street with traffic. As his cane hit the first car he instinctively must have known what it was and quickly turned his body to take a sideways tack on the object, in the direction of the road and traffic. I remember holding my breath a little bit and thought if he walked out onto the road I’d scream and run over, but as I was formulating this in my head he had found the edge of the car’s back-end and shimmied past it just brushing the bumper with his pants leg. The cane’s end found the curb, which he then stepped over, and off he went up the street resuming his rhythmic tap-tap-tap broad sweeps with his cork tipped cane.
I couldn’t help but smile in admiration for the man and I whispered a very quiet, Well done, mate, to him as he walked away.
I am confronted by obstacles in the same way as the blind man but the difference with me is he accepts his obstacles as a part of his environment – his life – and he finds a way around them because he must if he is to continue walking forward. I know myself that I don’t accept the challenge of all the obstacles in my life with the same gracious acceptance and skilful navigation. Of course you could say he has to graciously accept the physical obstacles of his environment and navigate around them because if he didn’t he would never leave his home. As I’m feeling philosophical this afternoon, I’m going to say this is really just a metaphor of life for those of us with eyes.
I’ll never know his name, and will never speak to him, but that afternoon that man showed me something that I’ll remember for a long time to come.
The A blind man who made me see something by Mentalechoes, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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