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Seeing when you’re blind

September 10, 2003

The clouds were so low and thick today that on my walk along the lake I could barely see it. I knew a tour boat was out on the water because I heard its horn blow. I wondered if the tourists onboard were sitting cosy with a hot chocolate in their hand, and talking to one another about the travels they were on or if they were complaining because they couldn’t see the lake due to the heavy rain setting in. And, I wondered, if it were the latter, if they realised that there is more than one way to experience something – it just depends on your attitude.

I was taught this lesson in my early twenties when, working for a tour company in the Canadian Rockies, a woman called to book a sightseeing tour. I explained in great detail the different day trips available to her and together we picked one out for her to take. She then asked me a question that took me off guard, “Do you offer discounts to the blind?”

At first, I questioned if this woman was serious. A blind person on a sightseeing tour? Who ever heard of such a thing? Who had ever heard of a discount on top? Also I couldn’t comprehend the purpose of taking a sightseeing tour if you couldn’t see, especially in the Canadian Rockies where the sight of the bright green lakes or the ragged peaks of the mountains were something that needed to be seen to be experienced. How bored, I thought, this woman would be, sitting on a 3 hour bus tour without being able to see anything.

So I said to her, “We don’t offer discounts, but I should like to ask why you would want to take a sightseeing tour if you can’t see.”

With a smile in her voice she said, “My dear, there are so many other fabulous ways to see the world. Attitude, darling, attitude!”

She went on to tell me that she had heard our drivers told the best stories and described every detail. This was true. I was once on an eight hour tour where the driver, so passionate about geology, described every nook and cranny in every mountain for the duration of the trip. Near the end when my eyes had failed me from being tired, I closed them and still saw the mountains as he described them over the speaker.

She told me other reasons why she wanted to go on the trip (she liked the hum of people talking on a bus, she liked being out in the cold with the wind hitting her and then retreating inside to the bus or a cafe to warm up and be so thankful, and she liked to hear the rumble of the glaciers falling apart into the lakes) and why, even though she couldn’t see it, she could experience it.

This reminded me of the Mary Engelbreit quote which said, “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” She can’t change being blind, but she could change the way she thought about seeing.

There are moments for sure when wallowing, complaining or being pitiful is just downright a perfect thing to do. I am prone to fits of flailing limbs but these moments are generally short lived. It’s not being Pollyanna about everything, it’s just choosing to accept what you can do, instead of what you can’t. Like seeing when you’re blind.

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