Thursday, January 23, 2003

See No Evil

Last night, my mother and I were driving over to my place after work. My mother was nice enough to give me a lift home, since it was so cold and miserable. She's wonderful that way.

We were having a conversation while stopped at an intersection, waiting for the light to change. As we waited, we watched an old blind man as he crossed the street slowly with his cane out in front of him, feeling his way along. He was crossing at the crosswalk, with the green light, on the opposite side of the intersection.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, two cars appear from down the side street and careen into the intersection. Just before they hit this poor old man, the first car slams on its brakes and blares its horn.

I can only imagine what was going through this poor man's head. We watched him grimace in fear and stab at the air in front of him. He probably heard the sound of the cars and had no idea how close they were. We was probably deafened by the car horn blasting at him from a few feet away. He was probably panicking and for a moment, his whole life must have flashed through his head. Still stabbing at the air, the man walked forward cautiously, his legs and hands shaking as he walked. To our horror, the driver of the car honked impatiently another two times.

The cars waited in the intersection until the old man has reached the median. Before we could get their license plates, the drivers sped off into the distance. It made me feel sick to the stomach.

It reminded me of a blog entry by my friend Tara, who talked about how devastating it would be to lose the power of sight, or any of our senses, for that matter, but how it was still preferable to keep going, live your life, and appreciate the beauty of the world in a new way. It must be so much harder for the handicapped person to see it that way when there are people out there who are as mean and petty as those two drivers. These people terrorized a blind old man because they were in a hurry. And for no better reason than that.

But then, after a short pause, the man got his composure back. He walked forward off the median, made it to the other side while the "hand" signal was still flashing and then waited patiently for the light to turn so he could cross in the opposite direction.

Maybe crossing the street didn't make him a hero exactly, but something became clear to me at that moment: that sometimes it takes a great deal of courage for someone with a disability to just keep going. And maybe we should do everything we can to help them along the way.


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