When Anjelina first e-mailed me about this post, I was (and am) really excited it about it! Like so many of the other guest posters in this series, she has her own beautiful take on “just don’t say it,” a fresh perspective to bring to life. Her post gets at the heart of this series: exposing things we don’t often realize that do more damage than good…and she encourages all of us to be holier people. Enjoy!
I will preface my remarks by saying that, as a person who is totally blind, I cannot speak for all people with disabilities. However, I’m certain all humans, whether disabled or not, wish to be treated with dignity and respect. As Catholics, we are called to be the Body of Christ on Earth. Sadly people with disabilities are often marginalized due to misconceptions, fear of the unknown, or lack of exposure. I pray through sharing experiences from friends who are both blind and sighted, you are encouraged to rethink your reactions the next time you meet a person with a disability at Mass, a church function or in your daily activities.
1. Please do not tell me it’s God’s will or that I am “special”. Both may be true in some ways, but let me figure that out! Everyone has their own cross to carry, some are just more obvious than others. When mainly focusing on blindness, this conveys the message that blindness is the noticed characteristic rather than seeing any of the other gifts. A person with a disability is not drastically different from others; we primarily do things differently to accomplish the same tasks. For instance, since I am unable to read along during Mass, an organization called Xavier Society produces a monthly collection of the readings of the Mass and sends them out in Braille free-of-charge for blind or visually impaired patrons.
2. Please do not place your hands on me and offer to pray that my sight will be restored. God has created each one of us unique and beautifully made. If He intended me to be sighted, I would not be writing this post. Although it may be out of the norm, I feel blindness has been a blessing. Being able to read in the dark, getting to know a person for their character rather than appearance or understand those in our society who are disregarded is a blessing. Although it’s not always easy, when we meet a person who may be different in some way, let’s see them through the eyes of Jesus, without judgment, with love and receive them with an open spirit.
3. Please do not say that I do not have enough faith if I do not want my sight restored. Each one of us has our own limitations, whether they be outwardly or inward. At times limitations can be wonderful tools God uses to strengthen our dependence on His unwavering love and friendship.
4. When I take a sighted friend’s elbow to receive communion, please do not congratulate them for being such a saint. While my sighted friends are quite nice for giving me a hand, they aren’t doing it to earn brownie points from the “Guy in the Sky.” Even if a person with a disability may need to use alternative techniques or depend on a friend to accomplish a task, this doesn’t mean an authentic friendship does not exist. As the person who may have to ask for additional help, it can be unintentionally hurtful when it is perceived that I lack the ability to contribute to an
authentic friendship or are unable to reciprocate that friend’s helpfulness in some other way.
5. Please ask if assistance is needed, rather than assuming it is. It is affirming of my dignity to be able to ask for what I need and refuse what I don’t need.
6. Please see each person you meet with an open heart or mind. My goal of this post is to not formulate a must adhere to code for interacting with a blind person, rather it has been an opportunity to share the experiences I have had in the Christian community. My prayer is that we can all embrace our differences and celebrate the unique people we have been created to be.
Anjelina is a soon-to-be college grad with a Bachelor’s in Social Work. She is passionate about my faith, growing closer to God, doing what she can to change attitudes toward people who are marginalized by society, and living life to the fullest. She enjoys reading, visiting Starbucks since it is Pumpkin Latte season, and spending time with friends and family.