A friend of mine posted this story to an e-mail list I participate in, and while the story itself is fictional, it’s moral is a powerful one.
There was a blind girl who hated herself because she was blind. She hated
everyone, except her loving boyfriend. He was always there for her. She told
her boyfriend, ‘If I could only see the world, I would marry you.’ One day,
someone donated a pair of eyes to her. When the bandages came off, she was
able to see everything, including her boyfriend. He asked her,’Now that you
can see the world, will you marry me?’ The girl looked at her boyfriend and
saw that he was blind. The sight of his closed eyelids shocked her. She
hadn’t expected that. The thought of looking at them the rest of her life
led her to refuse to marry him. Her boyfriend left in tears and days later
wrote a note to her saying: ‘Take good care of your eyes, my dear, for
before they were yours, they were mine.’
Even reading this at 6:30 AM, as I did, bleary-eyed and undercaffeinated, I sat drumming my fingers against my desk, thinking about why it was that the
story gave me pause. I felt, somehow, that God was tapping me on the shoulder, asking me to take a moment–just one–to take a good look inside myself.
I might credit myself with being nothing like the blind girl in this fictional story, but as someone who’s lived with that particular “disability” since
birth, I’ve been on what I sometimes feel is more than my share of the receiving end of help. For one thing, I never want to inconvenience anyone; for
another, the independent streak in me flairs up in resentment at being hindered. I don’t know what–or who–I resent most; myself for having to be beholden
to someone else? The helpful person–be she friend or stranger–for standing in my way? God for burdening me with this cross? Rationally, I know it isn’t
any or all of these, though in moments of frustration I find myself thinking along such lines.
There have been, the truth forces me to admit, times when I’ve accepted help reluctantly, even ungraciously, from those who’ve offered it. At other times
I’ve taken, even embraced the hand that reaches out. Yet whether I accept or refuse the help, I don’t think I’ve ever really taken the time to consider
what it costs the person who’s come to my aid. I talk about not wanting to inconvenience others, but there’s quite a difference between inconvenience and
sacrifice. It’s an inconvenience when someone drives ten miles out of his way to offer me transportation; it’s a sacrifice when he does so even though
he doesn’t have enough money to put gas in his car. (I feel compelled to say, perhaps defensively, that I almost always do offer to reimburse people for
the cost of gas, but that is neither here nor there). The point is, I think, that all too often, we accept help from others without truly feeling the gratitude
due them for their service, however seemingly small and insignificant. A truly kind person would never call someone’s attention to how greatly he’s being
inconvenienced, or what he’s sacrificing, to offer help, and it’s for this very reason that we ought to be more conscious of what others might be sacrificing
to help us.
For those of us who face the challenge of living with a so-called disability, the balancing act between independence and accepting assistance
is all too familiar, and unfortunitley it doesn’t get any easier with time. There are moments when it’s best to accept help, and others when we would profit
more by finding our own way. Still, whether we accept or refuse help, we should pause to consider how far out of the way someone has gone to offer it.
I know the next time someone offers to help me, I’ll think of the boy in this story, and whether I choose to take the offered helping hand, or merely press
it in polite decline, be sure that I don’t let that hand be withdrawn feeling more empty for having given something to me.