Hands That See
Author: Melissa Barber
Happy Eighteenth Day of Thanks Everyone!
Today I Give thanks to God for beings so creative and imaginative when creating us human beings; our bodies can do such amazing things. We have eyes that can hear, ears that can feel, noses that can taste and hands that can see.
This year I have had the wonderful opportunity to meet and work with a new intern at my job. I wanted to look at my boss real side-eyed when she told me that this new intern was coming, because I knew that she and our office were in no way really ready to accommodate all of his needs to work with us. Windows have been cracked for a semicentennial of years, wiring and nails are in the most random places; the fourth floor walk-up has a rare shaped banister. Our computers would need additional software and programming. Concerning serving his needs, the list of inadequacies went on. Truth be told, I also knew that the work required to really accommodate him would suddenly sneak and fall [more like drop] into my lap, among the list of other jobs and task that had also found themselves there during the years of working for this company.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, our new interns is a uniquely-abled person who is also visually impaired. If you know me, you know that I treat him like I treat any other human being and that he (like my daughter) gets no passes for his impairment. The expectations of efficiency in tasks are still required. I love that visual impairment has not stopped him from pursuing his life goals, playing his guitar and booking gigs, and being a social butterfly. He has quite the personality and is an absolute riot (more like a hot mess!). He is really funny, quite the politician and has the gift of gab. For the several months that I have been working with him, I have learned so much about his world and how he “sees”, in addition to the many frustrations that present from a lack of sight. And it is nothing less than inspiring.
I have learned much about Fusion. Among its many functions, the software reads all documents, emails and digital information to him and magnifies his screen so that he can see as many shadows and figments on the screen to be a point of reference. But, I have experienced many frustrations with this software too. While Fusion is very helpful, it is often incompatible with many other programs and has on more than one occasion wiped out and erased data from the computer which I have had to restore! (The hours of horror!) I was more perturbed with that darn program than the intern was who mentioned that he had been so accustomed to losing data that he had already learned to adjust and not get upset. (Can you imagine that? Your norm being learning to adjust to missing stuff because a program you needed for your daily functioning has “personality” glitches?)
I have learned about the many opportunities available to people who are visually impaired to get funding for higher education. I’ve learned so much information about the many accessibility programs available. It’s been another depth of education that I often wonder how it’s preparing me for the next season of my life. I think the most wonderful and important thing that I have learned is that hands do in fact see. Our senses have an incredible way of compensating for each other when functionality is lost. After months of working together, the intern asked me, “one day, not right now, will it be possible for me to touch your face, after I thoroughly clean my hands, so that I can see what you look like? I want to see if the image in my head matches what you really look like.”
How mind-blowing a question on so many levels! Although I knew he was visually impaired, it was not until that very moment that I was made aware that I never realized (and even took for granted) that he couldn’t see me. For months, he was vulnerably exposed to trust me to be his eyes for countless tasks, never knowing if I would or was doing the right thing by him or not. What trust! (I’m not sure that I could ever be that comfortable with trusting someone else that I didn’t know like that.) I took for granted that I usually look directly at someone’s face and into their eyes to determine if they were genuine or liars. This whole time, he couldn’t do that with me and I had no idea if he was using another set of criteria to determine who I was. I also thought what an honor that he would even want to see me! (You know–intelligent, loveable, adorable, sexy, cute, gangsta me!)
One day, he finally got his wish. He said, “I’m ready. Can I touch your face now?” Of course, my reply was jokingly, smart, because I was a little nervous. “Did you wash your hands?” I stood completely still in front of him and guided his hands towards my face. His hands moved across my face, touching every crevice. He saw my flat big forehead. He saw my almond shaped eyes. I guess the size of my cheeks when I smile surprised him because he verbally commented on how big they were and contoured over them a third time to make sure that he really saw every detail about them. He then grazed over my mouth and chin too.
If I’m being honest, that was such a vulnerable, yet intimate moment. I was allowing him to see every detail of my face and I couldn’t hide any of me or my flaws. I wanted to laugh that uncomfortable, awkward nervous laugh because what exactly do you say or do in such a moment when someone is getting to really, intimately, see you. But, I stood, silently, letting him see me, the person he trusted, blindly, when I’m sure he wanted to emit one of those awkward and uncomfortable laughs on many occasions as well. It was such a pure and sacred moment. I never bothered to ask him if what his hands saw matched the image in his head. I decided to let the moment be and gave thanks for the awareness (for the first time) that hands, too, could see.
Today, I want to highlight The 145th Street Alliance (https://145alliance.com/) whose mission is to advocate for pedestrian safety, economic access and accessibility services for the visually-impaired. Although they have done great work to advance their cause for several years, they are still working on getting their 501c3 status. The founder, Mr. Brodie Enoch, who is visually impaired, mentioned that the organization is in need of a technologically savvy person to help their website and social media presence as well as a person willing to be his eyes to read and navigate the 501c3 paperwork process. If you or anyone you know can help the organization, please help them and donate in any way you can.
Have A Great Day of Thanks!