The Fear of Being Blindfolded

“We thus find, that all external fear is the baseless fabric of our own vision.”

The fear of the unknown held me hostage.

As our chauffeured white vans rolled up onto the rocky terrain, filled with red sand, I witnessed the debris make its first intimate contact with the windows of our vehicle. Each particle of the sand landed neatly across the window shield, making me blind to my surroundings, unaware of the territory my feet would tread, and unsure of how deep an impact my footprint could leave behind in the sand.  

As I stepped out of the vehicle, my sandal hanging loosely on my foot imprinted the sand for the first time. I felt the steaming heat rush into my nostrils, carrying in its embers the smell of food, radiating from the canteen. I strolled slowly up the battered ramp, whose paint withered ever so gracefully off of its railing. As I reached the end of the ramp, I stood firmly on cement foundation, awaiting the sounds of children filling the air, the sounds of teachers screaming for their impatient children to lower the volume of their voices. I stood speechless as I greeted the housemother, who talked endlessly of children invisible to my eyes and unknown, as of yet, to my ears. Suddenly, I find myself in a whirlwind as a child runs carelessly into my back, forcing my body into a full spinning motion. The spinning stops in an instant, providing me the opportunity to gaze into the eyes of the child. I gaze into her eyes, only to observe pupils, submerged in a grayish blue film, with specks leeching onto the side of her cornea. I stood amazed, as the bell rung, with the children streaming from their respective rooms, racing to their common destination without assistance.

I now started to ponder the impossibility hiding behind meeting a school of this caliber’s needs. From the beaten, torn, and poorly painted rooms, the heaps of chip bags, drink bottles, and candy wrappers, thrown negligently out of the windows, and to the mind boggling amounts of students, seated in their classroom with no teacher, it appeared that a week proved ineffective in assisting this community in finding solutions to these problematic aspects of their community. I felt incapable of assisting in that effort. Ironically, the more I doubted, the quicker the week seemed to speed by, leaving me hopelessly standing in the dust, awaiting answers to land gracefully into my lap. These thoughts entrapped my mind, until I encountered a little girl by the name of Ashar. Ashar’s hair hung loosely braided down her back. She adorned herself with a red bracelet with earrings to match, only to complement her beautiful blue uniform, draped with a brown scarf around her neck. One of her teachers pulled her out of class, and she sat in a chair with us gathered around. She pulled out her workbook, asking each of our names. Speedily she scribbled each of our names across the page, reading the words back to us, uttering “Daniel! Julia! Jessica!” Suddenly, tears began streaming down my face as I watched her flawlessly read the Braille text.

A surge of hope captivated my entire body, as I watched how she refused to let her blindness hold her hostage. Though I entered the school blind to the problems that existed initially, and unsure of solutions to the problems once I discovered them, I still held the capacity to affect change in the lives of each child, with the help of my team members. In order to accomplish this, however, I had to resist the urge to cross the entranceway of each classroom with a fearful countenance, afraid of how the children would receive us, afraid of them being unreceptive of our ideas. I had to resist the urge to fearfully trot down the hall with other blind students, afraid of bumping into them or scaring them away. Essentially, this week required believing that with the help of Jessica, Mahek, Henry, Allison, Isabella, Sid, Kritik, Camilla, and Julia, we could affect change, not only in the blind school, but also in the communities we’ll encounter as we return to our respective homes.