“You have one bite of rice at six o’ clock sweetie” Linda’s husband whispers as she slowly slides her fork across her plate to pick up her last bite of grain.
I am the keynote at a conference and am sitting next to Linda at the head table. Linda is a blind speaker who doesn’t wear sunglasses, but wears her heart on her sleeve. She has energy. She has charisma, and she has a story. Doyle, her husband, helps Linda walk, type, and even find the last bit of food on her plate.
Linda and I get to laughing and we both enjoy a few bites of our dessert before our meal is delivered (I mean, how are you going to not eat cake when it is sitting right in front of you?).
“Linda, may I ask how you became blind?” I say. She looks at me, smiles and says “Wow, you are not a shy one are you?”
She explained that five years ago she was shopping on a normal Friday. She walked down the stairs of the mall, missed the second to last step, fell, and knocked her head so hard it caused her to have a baseball sized welt on her forehead.
Once the swelling went down, she started to lose sight in her left eye three days later. After a week she could only see a few boxes (she explained it as “looking though a really thick chain link fence.”) and two weeks later she was completely blind.
Linda literally fell and knocked her sight out. All she sees is “grey clouds” and she is 100% blind. She will never be able to see her grandkids. She can’t see the sunset. She can’t even see the rice on her plate. “I believe there is always hope though!” she tells me.
I ask to take a picture and we both ask each other if there is anything in our teeth. Linda is a hoot. I wanted to learn more so I asked her a few questions:
“What is the best and worst part of being blind?”
“The worst part at first was the isolation. I didn’t know what to do, and for two years I just lived in a cocoon. I had to learn how to walk again. A step that was one inch off the ground would cripple me. My friends didn’t know what to do with me. My husband didn’t know what to do with me.” With no pun intended, Linda said “it was very eye opening.” We both laughed and enjoyed another bite of cake.
Her husband decided to jump in and answer what the best part was for him. “We have a stronger relationship now. I had to learn how to talk to her better. I had to learn how to watch out for her. Life is full of assumptions but when your partner is blind you cant assume anything because you have to explain things in detail. I don’t assume anymore. I explain. I listen to her. I love her.” Linda jumps in with “I agree. We were both workaholics before I became blind and now we spend more time together. It is wonderful.”
Do people treat you differently because you are blind?
“Yes, sometimes people think that because I am blind, I am also deaf. Also, they think that for some reason I am not educated, which is rather bizarre. I consider myself to be intelligent. For the most part though, people have been great and treated me with a lot of respect.”
“Sometimes your heart feels like it is pounding out of your chest like a cartoon character when you are on stage. Just remind yourself to dive right in because the water is fine.”
Linda opened my eyes to a whole new world. A world where you we should listen more and talk less. A world where we should smile for what we have now and always be a believer. A world where we all have disabilities, but some of us, the good ones, take advantage of our abilities.
I am thankful I sat next to Linda and her wonderful husband. We had a great time. I look forward to meeting her again at another event…and hearing her speak.
How to Be a Speaker: Focus on your abilities, not your disabilities.
Question #1: What is one thing that you think is holding you back? (Be honest, type it out, and it might help you get over it!)
Question #2: If you could have dinner with someone tonight, who would it be?
Question #3: What is your favorite quote?