Four years ago I decided to see a psychologist for the first time. I sat across from Dr. Bob in a big leather chair and discussed my situation. He made some
notes as he listened to me talk. When I was done he told me something I wasn’t expecting. “You’re doing great. The way you’re handling this is really
admirable. I have patients who are afraid of stepping out their door,
and here you are.”
I had suffered the shocking disappointment of a failed eye surgery a few weeks earlier. I was now grappling with
the reality that I was permanently blind. But Dr. Bob’s take on how well I was doing was a vote of confidence.
And this wasn’t an isolated case. My recent blindness evoked encouragement from just about everyone. Family
members were oddly respectful. Friends were unusually consoling.
Perfect strangers, well that was the best part. They saw me as
strong, as overcoming a huge challenge, as heroic.
I still get lost walking the same route in my
neighborhood I’ve walked for years. I have had to relearn the
simplest things, from brushing my teeth to writing an e-mail. But these challenges have been offset by
the support I receive from others.
I no longer see the faces of individuals, but I see the best side of
humanity. When I ask people for directions in the street, they walk
with me to my destination. Cashiers wait patiently as I find the
right bills in my wallet. My guide dog cost about $30,000 just to train. I spent not one cent, but I benefit from his service and
companionship on a daily basis.
And I get a lot of credit for my accomplishments. Dr. Bob was amazed
that I had come to his office on my own.
When I won a scholarship to study for a year in Brazil, an article
came out in the local paper touting my upcoming adventure as heroic. I didn’t feel heroic for wanting to go to Brazil, but I appreciated the support.
And this I believe: True heroes
are born not in the seeming difficulty of their life situations but by
the grace and love with which they live their lives. And just who
these heroes really are is not for us to decide. We can’t measure the degree of difficulty of one life against another. We can’t look into
each other’s souls and see the real intentions behind the resulting actions. When it comes to judging true heroes, we’re all blind.
So whether or not I’m truly a hero, I appreciate being treated
like one. It makes me want to live up to this expectation. when everyone is as encouraged in their life challenges as I have been, the world will be a much happier place.
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