This I Believe

Amber - Santa Barbara, California
Entered on July 6, 2007

I believe we should learn to slow down.

Recently, I volunteered to take a group of blind children from the Braille Institute, ages ranging from eight to sixteen, to Henry’s Beach in Santa Barbara. For most of them, going to the beach was a rare occurrence; for some of them, it was their first outing to the beach.

I was paired with a 10-year-old named Adrianna that day, who was one of the few who had never ventured out to the ocean waves, which personally saddened me since I grew up in the ocean. Adrianna was not born blind, but her vision, over the course of her early childhood, gradually worsened until she could no longer see at all.

“I’m nervous,” Adrianna timidly confessed to me as we got off the bus. I reassured her, “Don’t worry, I will show you around. I come here all the time.” Once we took off our shoes, I took her by the hand and began to guide her towards the water. She walked slowly, completely alert of her environment, yet seeing nothing. The water was so close, but it was taking us such a prolonged time to get there. I quietly took a deep breath: “Patience,” I reminded myself.

“Do your feet tickle when they sink into the sand?” she asked. I was concentrating so hard on getting to the water, I was not aware that Adrianna had stopped. “I guess,” I replied distractedly. “There is so much to feel at the beach,” she said, standing there completely entranced. “Close your eyes,” she ordered me. I reluctantly closed my eyes and stood next to her. She started to explain how she could feel the sand between her toes and the cool breeze washing through her hair. She went on to explain how she could taste the salty air, smell the salty sea, making her feel as though the salt from the ocean was sticking to her skin. I began to feel everything she was describing and, for the first time, started to really feel the beach. It felt completely new.

That day I was able to finally appreciate my surroundings, just by slowing down.

I’ve noticed that our culture has become obsessed with speed. With high speed Internet, cell phones, cars, it seems as though everyone is in a rush these days to get to their destination. There is always that sigh of impatience from someone in the Starbucks line because of the five minute delay in their schedule caused by the long line for coffee. I, too am guilty of this.

What I learned from Adrianna at the beach that day is that those of us who can see tend only to look straight ahead at our destination, passing by all life without noticing all the details that surround us. I was supposed to be her mentor and guide her around the beach. Instead she guided me around the beach by helping me explore the beach, feeling every sensation the beach had to offer, one slow step at a time.