Thursday, August 15, 2019

I Can't See

An Arkie's Faith column from the August 15, 2019, issue of The Mena Star.

Four-year-old Molly is at her neighbor’s Nicole’s house. She likes to go with her big brother when he plays with the neighbor boys. And Nicole loves having a Molly around. Being the mother of three rambunctious boys, she liked spending quiet girl time with Molly.

Molly’s favorite movie is Pocahontas. This evening, while the boys are playing, she is in Nicole’s dimly lit bedroom, and Nicole is putting braids like Pocahontas’ in Molly’s long, dark brown hair. When she finishes, Nicole sets Molly on the vanity in front of the mirror and holds a mirror behind Molly’s head. “How do you like it?” Nicole asks. “Oh, I can’t see it,” Molly says. Nicole starts tilting the mirror in different ways. “I still can’t see it,” Molly says.

Molly’s family and friends know that she has poor vision, but no one knows that she is night blind. She has already had one surgery and a bunch of exploratory tests, but people think that she sees more than she does. Molly would try to tell adults that she couldn’t see when it was dark, but they always assumed it was just a typical childhood fear of the dark. They didn’t realize that she actually couldn’t see anything. Night-blindness is one of the first symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa.

One night when Nicole was taking Molly back to her house, they began walking down the porch steps when Molly started clinging to her and saying, “I can’t see. I can’t see.” Nicole said, “I know you can’t see the same as you can during the day, but you can still see outlines and shadows and shapes. See? Look at the stairs; you can still see the line of the edge of the stairs.” But Molly told her, “No, I still can’t see.” When Nicole got Molly home and told her parents what had happened, it was the first time they realized how severe her vision loss was.

When Molly started school, the other kids picked on her. From first grade until she graduated from high school, bullying was a part of Molly’s life. One day Molly’s mom was picking her up from school. As they were walking through the hallway, kids started throwing garbage at Molly and giggling. One of them slid a french fry container filled with ketchup in front of her feet to see if Molly would step in it. Molly’s mom couldn’t believe they were doing that right in front of an adult. Mom said to Molly, “these kids are throwing things so you’ll trip. They think it’s funny, and they’re looking at me with absolutely no respect.” Molly told her, “Yeah, Mom, that’s my life. That’s what it’s like. Just ignore it.”

By the eighth grade, Molly noticed that her vision was fading fast. Within six months, she lost what little remaining vision she had. During her high school years, Molly suffered from crippling depression, but with very supportive parents and counselors, she was able to not only overcome but to become a successful motivational speaker and author.

In her book, “It’s Not What It Looks Like,” Molly writes; “The first voice I hear most days is Niamh, my amazing mom, coming into my room to wake me up. She opens the blackout curtains in my LA apartment so just a little bit of light comes in. Yep. I already know what you’re thinking: You’re 25 and your mom still wakes you up? Whatt? Is that because you’re blind? Nope. News flash: Blind people can and many do live alone. In fact, back home in Toronto, I lived in my own apartment for two years.

Most blind people go through years of training and, in the case of those who were not born blind, rehabilitation to make sure that we can be capable and independent. We go through orientation and mobility training, take life skills classes, and many other things to make sure we don’t walk into things, that we’re confident, and that we can navigate safely without hurting ourselves or others. I rely on my mom and others, not because I’m disabled, but because anybody with a business like mine doesn’t do it alone. Blindness just adds an extra layer of challenge to what I do daily.

‘Molly,’ my dad said, ‘You can do a lot of things, but what you can’t do is be this independent, hard-working, and successful unless you have people to support you. No one, no matter who they are, gets to achieve their goals without support from others. No one is 100% perfect at 100% of what they try. That’s why it takes a team to achieve what you were put on this earth to do.’ So, that’s why my mom is waking me up. And someday when she does go back home, I’ll get a really loud alarm clock. But for now, it’s her and me. And I’m loving this morning ritual we share. So, good morning, Mom.”

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 (NLT) “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” We need to rely on others, and to be willing to reach out and help. We as Christians often have the wrong idea of what it means to reach out and help. A blind person isn’t helped by being informed that they are blind.

Gentle Reader, “it is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” Ephesians 2:10 (TLB) God has planned for you to spend your life helping others. The choice is yours. Either you can point out the faults of others and criticize them, or you can help and encourage them. I hope that your choice will be to help and encourage others. When we encourage and help others, we are showing God’s love. Show someone today how much you value them for who they are. Help and encouragement can make a big difference in a person’s life!

You can purchase Molly Burke's audiobook, It's Not What it Looks Like here.

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