I dropped my blind friend off at the airport and into willing hands Saturday at 5AM. He called four hours later: “You wouldn’t believe what happened. I’m in Charlotte on my way now to Palm Beach, and the flight is a different number, but it’s the same plane. I don’t have to change planes, just change seats. Isn’t that cool?!” I rejoiced with David, realizing that I would not have called a friend to say, “I don’t have to walk off this plane and get on another –cool, huh?” But for a blind person, a change is a challenge, especially an airport change, especially walking off one plane and getting on another. The thought creates tension for a person who hopes he gets help, trusts he isn’t forgotten. He may ask for help, if anyone is around and interested.
Then he said, “Another cool thing–I found my cassette at the bottom of my bag.” He memorizes what he puts into his two bags–and where. We look for things we can’t find in a bag–but we can see! After two trips to our home, David memorized the floor plan. He doesn’t want to be crashing into walls in the middle of the night. As we maneuvered our way up our walk, he said, “Oh, there’s the little bump in the pavement.” He was right!
Relationships are important to David. He remembered the names of the grandchildren he met–once. He was hoping he could see Shepherd–for the second time. He had met him a year before. He was thankful that two of my sons stopped by. Not a huge thing to some–huge to David.
I said on the phone, “I am going to start my sermon on gratitude with your plane story.” He responded, “Good. I want to keep the thanksgiving angels busy, the ones who bring our thanks to the throne.”
I’m not sure about his angelology, but I know one thing–he wants to get good at gratitude. He is not a victim, although he sure could be, a victim of the hospital that didn’t know excessive amounts of oxygen mess with the retinas; of his parents who split up the household that took dad out; of bullies who made fun of him. He could be a whiner–blaming parents, the hospital, the God who saw it all and apparently did nothing. He could feel entitled to more because he has less.
We know what blue looks like. When I asked about colors, he said he associated the color blue with the ocean and the sky, neither of which he has ever seen. His world is colorless. David doesn’t know what he looks like, or his mom, or his older brother, who sometimes tells him what he does wrong.
When he leaves for the bank, he doesn’t want to go at rush hour, because he keeps cars waiting when he crosses the street. Oh! He has been romantically involved with two different girls, not to the point of getting physical but to the point of feeling close. But he didn’t know what they looked like. They just felt special. One died–the other moved.
When David departs, I thank God for my life, my wife, my children, my eyes, the color green, lilacs, the Christmas tree. I too want to keep the thanksgiving angels busy, if that’s really what they do.