When I am feeling sorry for myself because of my low vision, God has a way of changing my attitude. Today, I was talking with a woman and she told me her story of breast cancer survival. The woman is a Sikh. The worst part, she said, was the fact that she lost all of her hair. She leaned toward me to emphasize her point, “You know that Sikhs never cut their hair.”
I thought about this and couldn’t help but compare it to my own situation. I am losing my vision, but nothing I have been through diminishes the way I view myself with regard to my faith. The New Testament is not negative about people who have poor eyesight and, in fact, Jesus treated people who were blind with respect. Jesus did not allow blindness to be equated with sinfulness. Eyesight is not a symbol of faithfulness in Christianity, the way long hair is for a Sikh. I think about what it must have been like to experience the loss of such an important outward sign of faithfulness, and I realize that I have not lost anything.
I am a Catholic and am immersed in a system of signs and symbols and sacraments. I know that symbols, while meaningful, are meant to help point us toward the divine. Talking with my friend helped me put my own struggle with the outward symbol of the cane into perspective. It is not the signs or the symbols that give us our identity. She was no less a faithful Sikh when her hair was falling out. I am no less an able person when I carry my cane.
I am trying to process the lesson from my conversation. My friend overcame both her hair loss and her cancer, emerging from her ordeal with strength and wisdom. I hope to find myself stronger and wiser as I continue to travel this journey into low vision living. I want symbols to have a positive impact on my life and faith. I can view my ID cane as a symbol of independence and strength and forget my idea that it is a sign of disability and neediness. It’s up to me to determine my own identity and the identity of my symbols, including my cane.