“Now,” Pat told the group, “it’s time for GEICO blind-person moments. I’ll start. I have two. Once I fell in a manhole.”
New members of the group gasped’ those of us who worked at the center smiled.
“I was using my cane, but tapped on one side, then the other and ended up falling in!”
“Were you hurt?” a woman asked.
“Broke the heel on my shoe, bruised my knee, but my pride…totaled!” She laughed, giving the group permission to laugh, too. “Then once I brushed my teeth with Desitin. It was bad—took weeks to get it all out of my mouth! No matter what I rinsed with, it’s Desitin, made to keep wetness off of baby’s skin so nothing worked!”
“And I sprayed my hair with white spray paint instead of hairspray!” I added. “So when we’re teaching you how to mark containers pay attention! We speak from experience!”
The small group of newly blinded adults giggled again, a little less nervous about being in the rehabilitation center, less apprehensive of being so far from home.
“I have the winning story!” a heavily accented male voice said. “Being blind in Iran is very different than being blind here. You must be a beggar, no matter what—no choices. So I would pretend to have a small amount of vision. That way I could get a job, get married…have a life. I seldom used a cane.” Baba laughed; a deep, melodic sound that put everyone at ease. “In Iran to cross the street you must jump into a gap in traffic—very dangerous. A blind person just stands and waits for help. One day I was waiting when a man touched my hand.” He chuckled. “He asked if I was ready to cross. I said yes and he stepped out into the street. Of course I followed. I heard tires screech, a horn and felt a hard bump on my side. We had been hit by a taxi!
I jumped up, yelling, and he jumped up, yelling! The taxi driver was laughing and laughing because no one was yelling at him—“
“You were both blind!” one of the new residents interrupted, giggling.
“You are right!” Baba said, and laughed until I thought he may fall out of his chair.
After the laughter stopped Baba said, “Many people may offer to help you because you are disabled. But take care! Some with the best intentions offer the worst help!”
One of the new residents, an older man with glaucoma, said, “The Bible says that if the blind lead the blind they’ll both fall in a ditch! I guess it didn’t occur to Solomon that they might get hit by a taxi!”
Everyone laughed again.
Pat, the center director, added, “It’s important to choose your help carefully. There are several things to consider: how often have you asked the person for help, did they seem reluctant the last time, are they reliable…we’ll cover this more later. What I want you to know now is that people are people, whether they’re fully sighted or totally blind. And people are prone to making mistakes. You aren’t exempt. If you can laugh and learn from your GEICO moments you’ll be a better person…and a lot less likely to repeat the same goof. I’ve never, never forgotten to mark my toothpaste with a rubber band again!”
“I have a special helper,” the man with glaucoma said. “Now, I know that you people can’t talk about faith because this place is state run, but I’m a client, not an employee. So I can talk about anything I want.” He paused, giving the staff time to stop him, but we didn't. “His name is Jesus. He’s been with me in times of war, times of peace, times of plenty and times of need. He was with me with my doctor told me I was going blind. He listened to me cry and yell and never left me. He hasn’t chosen to heal me—yet. He may not. But he’s given me strength and helped me face every new day. He gives me true sight, not just vision. So if you want to meet this friend of mine you can talk to me anytime. I’m Allan, in room eleven.”
“I’d like to talk to you,” a man said.
I silently praised God for Alan’s ministry and asked that he’d have the right words to say to this man.
“I’d like that,” Alan said, “Any time.”
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