Today, I met a blind man.
I was working at a centre for the blind and upon arriving was invited to find a seat. I noticed this man sat on his own, with his head down, and thought I’d sit with him.
I introduced myself and he told me his name too. Then suddenly, he thrust his specially adapted mobile phone in my direction. ‘Know anything about mobiles, mate?’, he said. His phone had gone onto silent mode somehow, and without audible signals he had no way of knowing how to rectify it. (MAJOR design flaw, right there).
We got chatting and he told me, in his soft and quiet voice, he had lost his sight a couple of years ago. Before that, he had a job, a marriage, a family and was a mad football fan. Upon losing his sight, he literally lost everything. The more he told me, the more gutted I felt.
And for some reason, I found it even harder as we talked about football. We told each other which teams we support, and debated about players, managers and results. Then he said to me, ‘that striker you’ve got – Cisse – what’s he look like? Is he tall or short? Is he stocky or what?’ For some reason, this really got to me. He was clearly still an avid fan; he listened to games and followed the news stories. But he had been robbed of a huge part of football. I thought of how commentators rave about Messi – arguably the best player in the world. This guy will have heard all the hype, but he can’t see the footwork and skill. The incredible balance, trickery and control that I get to see when I watch Messi, he has to try and piece together from the few stock phrases most commentators use during the game. So we sat and he named players. If I knew who he was talking about, I described them. He asked about Rooney and Lampard – who was tallest, who was better in the air, who smiled more? Then we talked about games and players he had seen before he lost his sight, and how they compared to now. And I found myself choking up a little.
Predictably, I began berating myself for taking what I have for granted. For the rest of today, I kept thinking about this and I think I have stopped berating myself! I’m sure he took his sight for granted too, until he lost it. And I’m not sure it’s possible to live life without taking things for granted, to blame myself for this is unreasonable and I’m sure he’d agree with me.
One thing, however, will stay with me for a long time though. And that is the gracious and kind smile he gave me when I told him he’d love our local stadium because it has great, unobstructed views.