As a fourth grader, I sat in the optometrist’s chair and tried to read the charts. Dr. Beardsley was long-suffering with my inexperience (and stubbornness) in the process. “Is this better, or can you see better with this one?” Over and over, he kept asking the question until I was sure the setting was as clear as it could be. I wasn’t cooperative because I didn’t need to be there. I was sure of that. There was nothing wrong with my eyes, I just had to squint a little to be able to see things far away. The week before, the school nurse had sent home the note which described my problem seeing the chalkboard, even though I had been moved to the front row. So, here I was, sitting in a chair I didn’t want to be in, answering the same question again and again. Stupid nurse! What did she know anyway?
I can’t remember how long it took after the exam to get the glasses, with the ugly, heavy black plastic frames, but instantly, the school nurse was a genius, the doctor a miracle worker! As I walked out of the office on Broadway Street downtown, I was astounded! I could read signs across the street, of all things! And, down a block or two, the storefronts were in clear focus! I have to admit, I was befuddled. How was it possible that I could be so blind and not know it? I had been sure that my eyesight was great, that the visit to the eye doctor was a waste of time, to say nothing of my Mom and Dad’s money, but who could argue with the result?
The inconvenience and awkwardness of actually wearing the glasses would come later – the nickname of “Four Eyes”, the implied geekiness, to say nothing of the broken lenses and frame pieces which were a source of constant torment for my parents. But I will never forget the wonder of that afternoon, as I walked down the street with my new glasses. My reality was augmented exponentially, the vistas expanded far beyond their former perimeters. I was looking at a new and sharper world!
To this day, I don’t think I have relived an awakening of the senses quite like that, but there have been several occasions which were similar. I won’t even attempt to describe all of them, but they have all been little mini-epiphanies, akin to that day simply because for me they were amazing changes in context. Graduation day, my wedding day, the day I held my daughter for the first time and then my son…all these were eye-opening experiences, causing me to change my perspective and increasing my understanding of those who had taken those steps before me.
I think one of the greatest continuing problems for me is that I have difficulty seeing things from a different perspective. I am often unsympathetic with folks who have problems that are unrelated to any I’ve experienced. I have no patience with folks who are unemployed, because I’ve never known a time when I couldn’t find work. I don’t empathize with people who have addictions, because I have been blessed to not have that struggle myself. I see things from my little room, through my myopic eyes and there’s no optometrist to prescribe corrective lenses. As I’ve mellowed a bit in my middle age, I’m finally starting to make that a goal of mine. I may not know the miracle cure that will change the perspective instantly, but I do know the One who voluntarily became like His creation, who looked at us, not from the heights with a haughty, royal glare, but with human eyes worn from lack of a place to sleep and brimming with tears of sorrow and compassion.
I’m still not sure why we don’t all have twenty-twenty sight. I don’t understand why people close to me are living each day, struggling to see the pages they once read easily, or to wield the tools they used to ply with precision. I’m praying for cures for the diseases that dim the sight or darken people’s worlds altogether. But, for the type of sight I’m talking about today, there is no excuse for staying in the darkness. The world is bigger, and wider, and brighter than the puny one that we look out on every day. All we have to do is to put on the right lenses and see what’s in front of our eyes. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
Now, if I could just locate my glasses, I’d finish this up and go home. Where do you suppose I put them this time?….
“Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. Then, when you criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have his shoes…”