What we don’t have

I’ve mentioned before how there’s a near blind woman at work who has a lovely seeing eye dog, Joy. Joy and I have become good friends and she’ll visit me a few times a day on her travels for a bit of a scratch and a wag of the tail. I can safely say that simply having Joy around makes my time at work a little bit happier.

I haven’t had much to do with Joy’s mistress. She’s a receptionist, bright and bubbly, but I find it hard to find a connection with someone who can’t see me. Every now and then I’ll open a door for her or mutter something as we pass by, and at times waiting for a lift we’ve exchanged comments as I’ll give Joy a pat.

I find myself feeling incredibly tender towards this lady. She’s a lovely, happy person who seemingly has accepted her disability with grace. I know I should accept it too, but – quite unlike me, I think – what I feel is pity. I can’t imagine many things worse than being without the gift of sight.

I don’t like pity. I disapprove of it. When I had my troubles I hated the thought that anyone might pity me, and I always think to return the favour by not extending it to others. Pity diminishes the pitied. It may be well intentioned, but pity always flows from the superior to the inferior. 

I have sight, this woman does not, and so it’s an easy to feel sorrow at her loss. It seems misplaced given her cheery disposition. She’s clearly come to terms with it long ago and manages to get by okay. I admire her, but then at times I feel her loss keenly and wish I could help her.

Last week she came to work reporting she’d left her phone in the taxi. She tried to recover it, then her team leader, a lovely bloke and one of my mates in this place, made some calls to, as did her parents. Everyone banded together and I saw this as a pattern of her life. I realised how vulnerable her blindness makes her – not just to misplacing things she cannot see, but being taken advantage of by less scrupulous people. I so wanted her to recover her phone, for me as much as for her. I wanted to believe in happy endings. And she did – that was the good news.

Then she was speaking to one of the others about a trip to the states she’s making in June and the man she’s meeting over there. “Is he your boyfriend?” asked the person. “Well, yes, he is,” she giggled in answer.

I was happy for her, warmed by hearing the pleasure in her voice, but at the same time imagined – probably unfairly – that her waiting boyfriend was similarly disabled (as so often seems the case). In my over-cluttered I wondered why that must be? And yet I don’t know that he is!

I am a voyeur in all this, and doubly so since she knows nothing of me, not even my presence, except by voice. I am lucky, but it seems unfair that I am, and I guess my tenderness towards her is an expression of guilt. Why should I be so blessed, when others are not? How can I take it for granted?

And yet she accepts her disability without a qualm. I should accept it too, but I’m glad to think twice. The longer I reflect the more I wonder at and appreciate her innocence – don’t we all yearn for that? Yet it is more sophisticated than that I suspect. Innocence is something generally we lose, rather than attain. She has never seen the sights that we take for granted – but in its stead has she found something the likes of me can only wonder at. She knows what she doesn’t have, and in that acceptance has found something else, perhaps just an innocent simplicity. It is what it is; and what it is is sufficient.

This is what it returns to. Pity is an indulgence. It’s a rich man pitying the poor for what they don’t have, when the poor despite their poverty have all they need. It’s a grace I’ve often envied. At times I caught glimpses of it myself in my travails, but my mind is so active, so cluttered, that it doesn’t rest long enough to let it in. I accept that grateful at least that I am aware enough to understand.

Regardless, I wish her every happiness.

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