Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Learning to See Life Through Eyes that Don't See

A while back a friend I met here in Jamaica, Sarak Klapak, introduced me to the Salvation Army School for the Blind. It is the ONLY school for the blind that exists in Jamaica, and nearly 150 students go to school here, with most of them living on campus. I got connected with the coordinator of the "integrated" program, which takes students and places them in mainstream, public high schools in the Kingston area, and she set me up with a few students to tutor. During my down times without teams here at CCCD, I have been going to the blind school as much as possible, sometimes 3 days a week. I first met Sanjay and Jade when Sarah brought them a guitar back in February and I was able to tag along. When she told me that her blind students played guitar, I honestly didn't expect them to PLAY the guitar. That goes to show my wharped perspective and ignorance, cultivated by a culture that typically views persons with disabilities as somehow inferior or inadequate. Not only can they play the guitar well, but they are both very talented pianists. I have been learning so much about them, about blindness, about a more God honoring perspective on life.
One day Sanjay and I were walking to a room, and as soon as we got to the corner he turned. I asked him how he knew when to turn. He explained to me that although he doesn't have any sight, he can feel the presence of his surroundings. When he walks past a wall to an intersection, the air changes, the noise changes, and he can sense that the wall is no longer there. With having lived at this school for so long, the entire layout is embedded in his memory forever and so he knows when to expect a turn.
Last week I asked him how he and Jade learned to play the guitar and piano. They have a music program so I asked if they had a teacher there at the school that taught them or if they picked it up from visitors. He calmly replied (he is always calm, steady) no, Jade and I are self-taught on the guitar and piano. We just have played and played and played until we have learned. Wow, I was amazed. How do you learn to play new songs, I asked. Well, he replied, you just listen to the song and then play it back until it sounds right on the piano.
For Sanjay and Jade, their attention to detail is impressive. I was reading to another young man the other day, and Sanjay walked in, heard my voice, placed his hand on the other young man's shoulder, and then said the other boy's name in greeting. Later I asked him how he knew it was that boy. Sanjay said, well, his uniform is different than ours because he goes to a public school during the day, so all I had to do was feel the seem on this shirt and I knew who it was. Wow!
Last night I was working with Cheyenne, another integrated student who I am helping prepare for her CXC Biology exam May 7th (please pray for her success, she has asked me for prayers specifically for this exam). During a break in reading, Sanjay and I were chatting and somehow we got on the topic of "contemplations of life." I wish I could quote what he said, it was very profound, but in general he said, ya know, I have learned to be content without sight, I have learned that this is who I am and how I was made, and all I can do is take what I've been given and try to make the most of it. Some people, and I sometimes still struggle with this, but some people with disabilities or blindness can't learn to accept that it is who they are. I also believe that my blindness can be viewed as a gift. My other senses have increased abilities due to the loss of my sight. I hear things clearly, I can touch things and instantly understand what it is, I have learned music in a way that otherwise I may not understand.
Such wisdom from a young man!
Anyways, later this week or next week I do hope to record a video of them playing the piano and guitar, and I think there is a way to embed video into my blog (I'm still learning how to do this) so I will try to share with all of you. As you go about your daily life today, I challenge you to think about your ability to hear and talk, your ability to see, the health you have to walk and run, the monetary gifts you have to jump in a car, the comfort of your home, the blessings of family and friends who would do anything to help you if you were in need. And I have not even asked you to think about the gift of eternal life in heaven! God has been good to us, but don't let Satan use that blessing to steal our hearts and draw us into the pit of complacency and entitlement and materialism. Jesus prayed, Father, I ask not that you take them out of the world, but that you would keep them from evil. Evil is sin. Sin is putting things ahead of our Lord. Have you counted your blessings recently? Have I? I'm thankful for the lessons I am learning from my blind friends. After being among Deaf for almost a year, I take for granted my hearing and what I initially learned to be thankful for when I was first being introduced to Deaf culture. It is taking blindness to open my eyes again. To reawaken a proper perspective of who God is, who I am, and what on earth I am here for.

Mat 6:19-21  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

updated April 29, go here to see video:
Sanjay and Jade on keyboard
Jade on guitar and singing

Blake this was so inspiring and convicting! Thank you for "opening my eyes."

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