A couple of weeks ago I boarded a plane to head towards Nashville. During the first plane ride, I slept. For the second flight, I thought and prayed, "Lord - it's really temping to take another nap. However, I'd really like to sit next to someone who is deaf. It'd be great to make a new friend, to have more experience using, and learning, sign language."
Little did I know...God had a bit of humor planned for my day.
A 20-something-year-old man boarded the plane shortly after I did. I was able to tell straight-away that he was blind, as he used a fold-up stick to walk down the aisle and as a flight attendant helped him find his seat...which was right next to mine.
I thought, "Okay...Not exactly what I meant, but that's okay."
Talking to the man, he shared a little bit about being blind. From what I gathered, he has been blind all his life. He told me how people often ask him (once they realize that he's blind) if knows and uses sign language. He also shared about how awkward people can be about his blindness.
At one point, I said something to the affect of, "It can sometimes be fun being different than what society is use to." I guess that was the wrong thing to say at first. Defensively he said, "Different??!? What do you mean by different?!??"
Oops...I momentarily forgot an important factor - he's blind, and he can't see my face.
Realizing he wasn't able to see my face, I briefly explained that I have a birthmark that covers half of my face. (To which he said, "That's SO awesome!!!!!!!") So, I too, have 'fun' stories from people who don't know how to properly react to unique differences. Little did I know, he was about to become one of those stories himself.
Fascinated by my birthmark, he used his hand and covered his eyes asking, "Is it like an eye mask??" Then, while covering a cheek, he continued, "Or is it like a two-face?" I told him, "Umm...I guess it's a two-face." He then asked, "Oh. Have people ever called you a 'two-face' before?" I told him, "Actually, yes. I was called that once as a child." His response was, "Really??" As I reflected back many years, I told him, "Yes. Honestly, I don't really recall being made fun of much by other children, as I usually struggle with ignorant adults and rude strangers. However, the one time I remember being made fun of in grade school was being called a two-face in the school cafeteria." All he could respond to that was, "Oh." Usually I don't reflect on that memory with people I know, let alone strangers. He asked, and kept digging, so I shared.
We would discuss different things but he would bring the topic right back to my birthmark. He would ask, "Do people stare at you all the time? I bet they do." I answered, "Yes, they do."
Then the conversation topic changed once again. I think we went back and forth from "normal" topics to the topic of my birthmark at least four or five times. By round five, and because of his mean-sounding tone, I was starting to get frustrated and irritated by the man.
Before I knew it, he was right back to the topic of my birthmark as he told me, "I'd much rather be blind than to have a birthmark on my face any day." Although I decided against it, I almost told him that my birthmark threatens the vision that I have in my left eye, as I use medication to fight going blind on a daily basis.
I wasn't really sure how to react to his statement. In that moment, I was grateful he couldn't see my reaction - as I'm sure I probably had the expression of shock and confusion. Baffled by his comment, the thought came to my mind, "How do you know that you'd rather be blind? You can't even see my face to know what it looks like." (Thank goodness for the ability of having internal dialogue!)
Soon after that thought, I also caught myself thinking, "I'd much rather have a birthmark covering my face than to be blind."
Moments after that thought crossed my mind, I came to a realization. People, including myself, are comfortable with what they know. They are comfortable with what they are use to. For the blind man, being blind is what he knows. Having half a purple face would be completely new territory that he doesn't understand with a bit of the unknown. But for me?? I know what it is like to have half of a purple face.
I understand what circumstances are brought by having this different facial feature. When it comes to people's stares, comments, health, and how it affects my life overall - I get it...Just like the blind understand their blindness, and the deaf understand what it is like to be deaf.
On the flip side? The idea of being blind scares me. Becoming blind is a fear of mine as I love seeing the world and the beauty God has created. Not to mention, fear of not being able to partake in my love for photography.
Overall, the conversation with the man was really awkward. His attitude and tone were not friendly and came across as quite rude. While he couldn't physically stare at me, the way he would ask questions and the fact that he would keep bringing my birthmark up (even though we would completely change topics...multiple times) - I felt as though he was staring at me through his words and his comments.
I'm pretty sure that this was one of the weirdest and most uncomfortable conversations I've ever had.
The Travelin' Chick,