Without sight January 17, 2011

For the majority of pedestrians, walking through city streets covered with slush and high banks of snow is not a pleasant undertaking, every intersection is a challenge. The sidewalks are icy and each step you take must be done with care and alertness. Imagine then what it's like if a pedestrian does not have their eyesight. I encountered two such people last Saturday night who found themselves between two tall heaps of snow and garbage as they attempted to cross Eight Avenue at 56th Street. They were elderly, a man and woman, both completely sightless, the woman held a harness on a black Labrador in her left hand and the sleeve of her human companion with the other. I led them out of the messy intersection and as they continued on their way north toward Columbus Circle I received showers of genuine gratitude from them. I felt embarrassed for considering my short walk home to be burdensome.

If I had to walk all they way down to Greenwich Village that night with all my equipment on my back I would not have experienced a fraction of what those two people have to contend with each and every day of their lives. Regardless of their predicament, they were both in the best of spirits throughout. When I initially intervened to assist, the woman remarked jokingly to her male companion "This always happens when I listen to you!"
I am unable to understand how they can keep themselves in such a good mood while just about everyone else out on the street that night, myself included, appeared to be so unimpressed with the evening. Just making it through a few blocks was a challenge for those two people and even with those hurdles overcome I cannot imagine what they had to look forward to on arrival at their destination. There are certainly not as many choices, as far as activities go, for two blind people on a Saturday night in New York City. However what little there is for them to look forward to I am convinced that they will appreciate it and make the best of their time there.

The encounter reminded me how lucky I am to have the mobility and freedom which I often take for granted. Surely the incident will not make me walk around in euphoria for the rest of my life but I think once in a while it's useful to be reminded of the plusses which we presently have. It is certain that human nature drives us to keep something seemingly unattainable just out of reach so we can wile away the days of our lives trying to get it.

So while I reach fruitlessly for things like having smoking banned in Central Park and bad food stopped from being targeted at children and other seemingly hopeless wishes, its sobering to realize that a wish which my two blind friends were hoping for last Saturday was to make it through a few blocks of snow and ice without injuring themselves so they could perhaps sit peacefully in a warm dry room and have a lively chat with a good old friend.