Have you ever actually walked in someone else’s shoes? What would you do if you could see what others see? How do you compare what you see to something you’ve never seen? In this blog, we’ll explore how two very different people “see” typical daily activities.
If you know Alison, you know she’ll say she “sees” through gifts from God and her intuition. As someone who is legally blind, the question she is asked most often is what exactly does she see? She’s had different responses over the years, but to be completely honest, practically speaking, it’s hard to describe when she doesn’t know what YOU see.
Alison recently read an article that compared the everyday sights through the eyes of perfect eyesight and the eyes of a legally blind person. She decided to ask her friend Christina to do their own comparison.
Brief history: Alison’s eyesight difficulties have been lifelong, with the beginning of notable impact not being until middle school, due to the distractions of a weakened left side from a prenatal stroke.
Christina actually had better than perfect eyesight before a car accident caused some liquefaction of the gelatinous mass inside her right eye. She now has close to 20/20.
We will use 20/20 as our definition for perfect sight and 20/200 as our definition to describe legally blind eyesight. We use sight instead of vision, as one can have poor eyesight, but perfect vision.
Alison: If I go to grocery stores I don’t know, I get a headache. If they move items around on me, I feel overwhelmed. I like to shop where I know exactly where to find everything. If that means that I go a little farther or spend a little more, I do. I don’t have the luxury that some of my friends do of going to multiple grocery stores to accommodate coupons or different product needs.
Christina: I frequently go to two or three grocery stores in one day. I comparison shop all the time and get irritated when I don’t have the ability to branch out even further. I load up my daughter and go, go, go – until we get it all done.
Crowds of People
Alison: I often feel overwhelmed. It’s too visually overstimulating, and I can’t focus. I fear getting lost. When I was in Tokyo, thankfully, I had a very tall friend to be my focal point. When I’m walking with a group of people, I have to stay super focused on the people in front of me. I often just have to trust that the people behind me will keep up.
Christina: I hate crowds. I have a huge anxiety problem with feeling out of control in a crowded setting. I often use visual cues to distract me from the butterflies in my stomach; for example, I’ll count the number of bald guys in my immediate vicinity or people wearing orange shirts. I tend to be the person at the back of the group, constantly counting to make sure no one is left behind. I’ve been the “mom” of my friend group for many years. If I can see everyone, it gives me a sense of security.
Alison: I’ve confused or hurt a lot of feelings over the years. People wave, honk or even smile. I don’t acknowledge them. They think I’m ignoring them. If I’m walking and deep in thought, my face may even confirm my ignoring them. I don’t usually see them beyond about 10-20 feet. If I know them well enough to know their figure, they stand a better chance of being recognized. Some people have a distinctive walk or posture. That helps.
I’ve hugged, yes hugged the wrong person. I once thanked a nice elderly man for dinner, calling him Grandpa. In college, I once hugged a stranger, thinking he was a friend of mine.
Turning that situation around, I once was in a crowd of people when a whirling figure ran up and hugged me. I didn’t know his identity until the hug.
Who hasn’t hugged a random stranger by accident? I once called out an (unfortunately off color) inside joke to someone who resembled a friend of mine. Turned a bunch of different shades of red on that one. My excuse is straight up obliviousness. I’ve gotten so much better about paying attention in the past few years, though.
Alison: You KNOW when I recognize you. There’s a definite change in my voice and my face. I go from a polite hello to an excited HELLO! The hugging arms come out! I have the nickname Alison Loud for a reason more than a typo.
Christina: Oh my goodness, I have a tendency to avoid people that I don’t want to see. Once on a trip back to my hometown to visit my parents, I saw my middle school bully/frenemy and hid behind my husband until we were out of Walmart. I have no idea if she saw me or not, but I avoided a confrontation I didn’t want to have. Though for the life of me, I can’t remember if it was her face or voice that cued me into her presence.
Alison: Mountains majesty! I love them! I love them from a distance, and I love hiking them. I love anything mountainous! From a distance, I see majestic beauty but not to the depth and detail you do. While hiking, I make people nervous. As someone with very little depth perception, I can’t see how deep the cliffs go, as I look over them. I go on what I feel, leading to some falls….but not as many as I used to have! Thank you exercise and a strong core!
Christina: I love mountains too, and as it so happens, I’ll be moving closer to them in the near future. Alison is already planning her visit.
Alison: Yes, yes I am!
Alison: Having a condition of the retina, my eyes are sensitive to light and glare. I love fireworks. I love the atmosphere. Contrast is really key to my eyesight, so the bright colors in the dark sky are BEAUTIFUL!
Christina: As a child I could not stand fireworks, they were so loud and in my face. I frequently would watch from inside a nearby building. Now, my family launches their own fireworks on the Fourth of July and I truly enjoy them. I prefer to watch though. Once, I accidently knocked one over and it launched at my aunt who had just had surgery!
Alison: If I want to see what’s going on in football, I need to be close to a big screen TV, If I REALLY want to see football, I should watch it entirely in instant replays. The slow speed helps tremendously. In college, not knowing anything more about football than touchdowns and marching bands, being in marching band myself, I became highly dependent on my friends. They are my commentators. They are my eyes. They give me the play by play. I cheer with everyone else and then ask why. I always knew when we were doing poorly with one friend – he stopped talking.
WAIT- I did marching band?! Yes! Four years in high school and two years in college. I depended on the people immediately next to me. I couldn’t see the drum major. Lining up the form was, well, special. But hey! Only once in six years did I march on the wrong side of the field!
Christina: See, a big difference between Alison and me is that I just don’t enjoy watching sports. I will occasionally get caught up in a game that is playing at a restaurant or something, but most of the time I find my attention drawn elsewhere. I once spent an entire Super Bowl party making paper crafts.
Alison: I used to watch the Super Bowl solely for the commercials. I once ran down the hall of my freshman dorm and asked, “Who won? The red team or the white team?”
Alison: What do kickball and 4 Square have in common? They were my favorite sports to play as a child. What else do they have in common? Yep, a giant playground ball. I actually played tennis for a long time because my parents were big tennis players. I don’t know how many bad line calls I made. Countless. I’m sure I ticked off a lot of people. A small, brightly colored ball flying through the bright sky…no contrast there!
Christina: I had undiagnosed childhood asthma, so I was the last kid picked for most everything we played. When I got an inhaler in seventh grade, my basketball game really improved! I played softball for a long time, which was a really good game for me in that it was intervals of activity followed by rest. In high school I became a competitive cheerleader, so my asthma got strained with all the shouting initially. By the time I was a senior, my symptoms had become much more manageable, and I was able to complete my routines with no problem. I can’t imagine trying to do basket tosses with Alison’s eyesight! I’d never catch anybody! And when you’re the only thing between someone and a ten-foot fall to the ground, you need to be able to see where they’re going.
Alison: In all of my time playing basketball, I had one moment of glory. Someone passed me the ball, I dribbled it all the way down the court and launched it toward the basket. It didn’t go in, but for a couple of moments, my parents were on their feet!
Alison: No, I don’t have a driver’s license. Through a series of unfortunate events, we didn’t fully understand until middle school that I didn’t see well enough to drive. I thought I would be the only 8th Grader with a parking spot!
I am persistent, though. I spent a lot of years pressing a lot of people for the chance to drive their cars. A few people caved…and those parking lots will never be the same.
As much as I want to drive, there are plenty of practical reasons this is a bad idea.
1. Driving isn’t a textbook procedure. Even if they did everything they could to get me behind a wheel, the other drivers aren’t so predictable. Dangers like being cut off are even worse because I wouldn’t know they were happening.
2. I can’t see what the signs say or see the colors in a stoplight unless it’s overcast or right when we are going under them.
3. Some of my best of friendships began with a car ride. Except Christina. That began with The Journey Training.
Christina:Alison kept offering to drive when we first met. I didn’t realize what was so funny about that, other than I knew she had flown into Tulsa, and thus wouldn’t have a car. I had no idea about her visual impairment! I personally hate driving; it’s a chore and an obligation. Whenever I have the option to defer to someone else (usually my husband) I take it! I will always take my turn as the driver if the other’s in my group need me to. I just prefer to be the passenger and fall into my oblivious natural patterns. Unfortunately, it means car conversations often make me lose track of directions, and occasionally I distract the driver that way as well.
Coffee Shop or Restaurant
Alison: If I’m at a familiar restaurant, I typically know exactly what I want. If I’m at a new place that is candlelit, I have been known to use the flashlight on my phone. If I’m at such a restaurant, I’m typically with someone who can help me read the menu. If a place has a menu board, I always ask for a handheld menu. It’s just what I do.
Christina: I avoid going to new restaurants, because of a food allergy. Once I find a place that I like, with a menu that I find favorable, I keep going back. I also tend to order the same things at these restaurants, more out of habit than anything else. I make a joke with my husband of not liking the things I order out of my usual, “That’s what I get for trying something new”. I always look over each option and consider trying something new, but I just stick to the same old choice, because I know it’s good and it won’t make me sick.
What began as a comparison of literal views of everyday life – revealed a lot of different perspectives and things they have in common. Christina may not have an eyesight problem, but still has to make special considerations when she goes out to eat. Alison may not have had asthma, but can relate to the feeling of being picked last. In fact, Christina and Alison’s friendship started because of how Christina saw herself and how Alison in turn saw her (differently!).
Everyone has a story. Every time you come in contact with a person, you’re coming in contact with a different perspective, a different way of SEEING the world. Alison flew from Georgia to Tulsa to attend The Journey Training in order to meet a Coach who inspired her. Christina followed the advice of her mother in law who had found her own freedom in the Journey Training. Not only did they wind up sitting next to each other and gaining a new best friend, they experienced all new elements to their stories. The Journey Training gave them new perspectives, not only to see from someone else’s shoes, but also to more freely walk in their own!
Are you ready for a new perspective on your life? Join us for the next Journey Training.