Seeing the world through blind eyes
On October 31, 1989 I met 3-year-old Amanda. She was very articulate, and with great expression recited a Halloween poem for me. Her golden curls rested lightly on her tiny shoulders. Shoulders that would carry many burdens in the years ahead.
Amanda was born totally blind. She was a bright student, however, and attended regular classrooms where modifications were made in her lessons and materials.
Her lack of understanding of the sighted and visual world caused her and her elders problems. She didn't have much patience with sighted people.
When told that she must wear the clothes her mother had set out because they "matched," she would grumble as she stomped upstairs to change, "Sighted people and all this matching stuff!"
After colliding with a child in the gym, Amanda pleaded, "I just want to run free, like everyone else." I explained that sighted people couldn't always see her coming because we cannot see behind us. She replied, "That's why I wish you had two sets of eyes."
Amanda lost her temper with teachers and classmates. She wanted help immediately when she needed it, unaware of any other needs or circumstances around her.
Her sight was lacking, but her insights were profound.
One day I attempted to convey to Amanda the vast distance between us, the sun and the stars.
After a little thought she replied, "The earth is really as small as a piece of sand and we just don't know it.
On another occasion when Amanda was in second grade it started to snow. Since this is so unusual all the children were allowed to go out to see if they could catch a snowflake. Discussion followed in the classrooms about snowflakes and how beautiful ad unique they are.
When Amanda came to me for instruction that day she was somber. She said, "I wish I could see, just once so I would know what they are talking about.: Some days she just needed a hug.
Over time Amanda developed her own interests and talents. In high school she received two superior ratings for trombone solos at state competition.
Though she could comprehend math, her ideas about people and culture were not clear. Answering her questions kept me alert.
I had the privilege of teaching Amanda to read, Braille, of course. One of her readers was the story of Stevie Wonder. As we read the story it told of his troubled childhood, how poor his family was, and how prejudice affected his life. Afterward Amanda asked me what prejudice was.
Hoping to keep it simple I told her, "Some people have light-colored skin and some have very dark-colored skin. Often the people with light skin are not nice to the people with dark skin."
She asked, "Why?"
"The light-colored people think they are better." I was wondering what meaning this would have for her when she asked, "What color is my skin?"
The end of Amanda's first-grade year she asked, "Do you think God made a mistake when He made me born blind?"
"I don't think God makes mistakes," I replied. "He knew you would be special just the way you are."
"I am special and I feel special," Amanda said confidently.
Amanda will be a senior in high school this year, and she is an incredibly special young lady.
Gail Showalter lives in Nederland, Texas
“All material herein is exclusively the property of the author and is not to be used without written permission from the author.” (c) 2011