The most inspiring person at my college is not a speaker or a famous professor. In fact, she holds no position of any kind that society would call “noteworthy.” She possesses nothing in life that we mark as must-haves, yet exudes a satisfaction of life not many can attest to. She is definitely no physical specimen—she stands no taller than five feet two inches.
In all my time in college, she has been a constant source of strength and support to the students around, including me. If anything, she has taught me the most in what it means to be human. Her name is Mary. And she is blind.
Unable to see since birth, she has grappled around in darkness all her life. With just the aid of her walking stick, she gingerly tip-taps the 1.4 kilometres to the train station that takes her to the countryside. Sitting on the train, she diligently memorizes the number of stops before hers, the result of four months of preparation before starting the semester. Armed with her state-of-the-art “talking computer”—a technological marvel—she sits in lectures and vocally participates in class debates before making that long trip back.
However, it is not just the mere fact that she is blind that gets my soul stirred. It is what she does in spite of it. Throw a short “Hi, Mary!” in her direction, and a huge smile will creep in. She’ll greet you with a hug, run her fingers slowly and soothingly through your hair, and sincerely ask how your day was. Quite the talker, she laughs a lot, and never seems to be filled with the gloom-and-doom that people with her condition could be stuck in.
Get a conversation started with Mary, and it won’t be long before God is brought into the picture. I had the privilege of accompanying her on the train ride back, and was struck by her simple reliance on her heavenly Father. Whether it was about her school assignment, or her future plans, “God’s will” seemed about the only constant in her life. Amazingly, during that entire trip, not one single complaint was uttered. Not even when talking about her heater breaking down, or when sharing about the time she got lost at a train station. Given the opportunity to grumble, she unashamedly chooses to glory in her circumstance. “Well dear, God has His ways you know…” Confidence, it seems, is not restricted to the high and mighty.
It left me consciously rebuked. How easy was it to complain about my sufferings and bitterly turn inward on poor-ol’-me. Gratitude is relegated to the back seat, as pity rides the shotgun. I adopt the philosophy of the late Ally McBeal: My problem is bigger than yours, because it’s my problem. But it is strange that in the midst of worrying about getting that word count on the latest assignment, or grousing about that waitress that can’t get it right, there is a petite woman living in perpetual darkness.
I look around me, and I observe the prevalence of the same blindness. Most of us, if we are brutally honest, cannot see past ourselves. Far too often, our window to the outside world is clouded by the issues that plague us, and our minds are filled with concerns that we somehow refuse to let go off. The result is a person so bound by the frayed ropes of his problems that he is unable to free himself, and venture out into something bigger.
There is something about Mary all right. Now, even when I feel the strain of the day, I believe in the presence of a remarkable trust one can have in the midst of affliction. I think of the many more dangers she’ll face crossing the road she cannot see. Yet, I will continue to nod in wonder every time I meet this simple woman, armed with just a simple faith. And I will close my eyes, take out my walking stick, and let this blind lead the blind.
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