“I’ve never met a person who was ugly, unless they wanted to be. I’ve never seen my wife’s face, but I’ve listened to the sound of her smile.”
– Tom Sullivan
“During the last week of camp I met a little boy named “Timothy.” He was blind. His face, where his eye sockets should have been, was flat and kinda empty, and on one side the eye was missing completely. When I first met him, it was really hard for me to look at him…I was disappointed with myself that I couldn’t love him instantly the way I had with all the other kids. I remember emailing a friend one night and expressing how sad I was about this little boy – I felt like he didn’t just have a minor disability but that his disability actually defined him. Eyes are so key to a persons’ soul, and to hardly even have eye sockets just seemed so unfair.
On the first day i went up to Timothy and his caregiver to see how they was doing. She was sitting their crying. Tears streaming down her face. Timothy couldn’t really engage in the art activity that we were doing so she had her iPod out and was letting him listen to her music. She was clearly overcome at the intensity of his disability too.
As the week went on. I got to know Timothy a bit. He was a pretty passive kid, in his own world a lot of the time, obviously had not received much education or one on one attention. He seemed very oblivious and quite removed from the real world. But still, I fell in love with him. I started teaching him guitar and just kinda interacting more with him – figuring out ways to include him and make his surroundings come alive to him. I ran his hand over the contours of my face and through the length of my hair. I started to explain about how my skin was a different color to his…but then i stopped – does color even exist to him? We connected through touch and he could tell instantly when it was my hand he was holding and when it was someone else’s.
Then on Thursday – this was the highlight of my entire summer – we took him to the ocean. At first he didn’t want to go in, he kept saying he was scared, and so his caregivers just let him play in the sand. But I really wanted to try taking him in. I knew he would love it once he got in, its just that he didn’t know what the ocean was – and how would he? He’d never been there before, he couldn’t see it and I’m sure the sounds of crashing waves weren’t the most inviting.
I held his hand and explained that i was going to take him down into the water. He said, “姐姐我不要，我害怕，害怕” – “sister! I don’t want to go in, I’m scared.. scared”. But we went nice and slow and I explained all the sounds and textures and smells to him. When his feet first hit the water he was a little surprised and kinda hesitated but I kept reassuring him, and then, he decided to trust me. We went further in. His face showed a mixture of raw curiosity and deep peace. He seemed to be enjoying it. When he was in up to his waist he was still holding both of my hands, but visibly starting to relax. Then I put his hands in the water and rubbed them together, he let out a little giggle and started saying 洗手洗手！”I can wash my hands!” He put his hands up to his face and giggled further, exclaiming 姐姐！看看我！我在洗脸！”sister look at me! I’m washing my face!” it was the coolest thing – so innocent, so pure.
We ventured in further. It was incredible. He was in awe of all that he was sensing. The way the waves gently lapped against his body, the saltiness on his lips, the all encompassing presence of water. When we were deep enough I told him to lift his legs up and that I was going to teach him how to float. He tried it immediately, trusting me fully, and relaxed onto his back. The look on his face was one that i’ll never forget. He was so delighted and kept doing his little giggle thing. He could have stayed there for hours.
I think it was then that I realized he didn’t need eyes to communicate delight. I didn’t need to be able to look into his eyes to understand what he was thinking/feeling, his voice and facial expression was plenty. It was also at that moment that I stopped defining him by his disability, but by his name – Timothy. He was no longer the little blind boy with no eyes. He was Timothy, the brave adventurer who I had the privilege of taking to the ocean for the first time, the innocent child who was so willing to trust, the young man who had no qualms expressing emotion and embracing freedom.
I hope that next time I see a little boy with no eyes I don’t have to wait a few days before I start seeing his heart. I hope that I will be able to remember that he is not defined by his physical features or lack there of, just as I am not. I now see that beauty is not only something seen with the eyes, but it is the delight that seeps out when you allow yourself and others to embrace freedom.
Timothy, thank you for redefining beauty for me, and for revealing something of my own beauty to me.” -Rach
We meet so many kids each year at camp that from the worlds view are “flawed” and “unlovable.” These kids are more than a number, more than a face and more than their disability. Timothy is like so many other children, is longing for someone to show him he is beautiful, he is loved, his life has purpose! Through HIM, we see the beauty of this boy and so many other children!
For The Kids – Bring Me Hope
P.S. Below are all the videos from this week’s Yantai blog features!