I take the train to work. Monday through Friday. Same time every day, same faces every day. That is, except when I occasionally take a different train to visit my parents.
The first time I met her was waiting for the 5:30 pm train to go to my parents house. I saw her walk up the ramp and wait with the rest of us. The faint sound of her white and red cane could almost go unheard amidst the crowd of commuters. Her eyes were closed tightly. She looked to be about my age. The train pulled up to a screeching stop, opened its doors to allowed the passengers to rush out. There she stood, still, in the middle of the flowing crowd. People getting on, people getting off. I wondered to myself, "Does she need help getting on the train? Should I ask her if she needs help? No, I don't want to offend her." I waited, only to notice that most everyone was on the train, and there she stood. I walked up to her and asked if she needed help getting to her seat. To which she softly and with a smile replied, "Actually, yes."
This became our ritual when I would take the train to my parents. Her and I would chat on the train ride about small things, insignificant things. But last week, I finally got up the courage to ask her how long she had been blind. For some reason it felt like such a difficult question to ask. Just like asking if she needed help to get on the train, I thought it might offend her. But, I asked anyway. Much to my surprise she had only been blind for 3 years. She gladly offered the rest of her story to me. She had been having trouble with her eyes for some time, and that she was bound to go blind eventually. But, she went into surgery 3 years ago hoping that they could do something to help. But, instead, she came out of surgery blind. She believes that it was some sort of malpractice, but she has been unsuccessful in proving anything.
I wanted to cry for her. And for me. For taking so much for granted. For complaining about so many menial things throughout the day.
She then preceded to tell me that she was very depressed for the first year, and then decided that "moping" (her words) around wasn't going to help anything. So, she has been interning downtown at the Braille Institute for the past 2 years. They pay her just enough to cover her train pass, but she really wants a real job that actually pays a decent salary. She said that it's nearly impossible for someone like her to find a job. Before she went blind, she received her degree in Computer Science from a local university. Her train ride is about 1 1/2 hours each way, and for those of you who don't know, Union Station is not the nicest place to be, especially when you can't see anything. She has a lot to be upset about, a lot of reasons to live in constant pity.
But the last thing she said to me before I got off at my stop is that at least she can see in her dreams.
I just stood there and watched the train pull away. The lump in my throat made it difficult to swallow. I have thought about her every day since then. I've cried for her and been angry for her. I've thought about how unfair life can be. How sometimes people just get dealt a really shitty hand. And there is literally nothing that can be done to change it. She is blind. That's it. It can't be fixed or reversed. The most basic, and probably necessary, of senses was taken from her, and she is the one who will have to find a way to deal with it. I know nothing about that kind of adversity. About the sense of aloneness that I am sure comes with living in darkness.
So, in the spirit of this holiday, I hope that sharing this story comes as a blessing to you as it did to me. As I've grown older, I have really strived to have a grateful heart, but talking to her made me want to try harder. And after hearing her story, I will think about her when I start to feel sorry for myself for some insignificant event or hardship in my life. She really put my life into perspective that day. I can wake up, open my eyes, and see this glorious world. And if that is all I ever have, that is enough.
Side note: if anyone knows of anyone that could possibly give this girl a break or help her in anyway, please contact me at email@example.com.