Opening My Eyes

The last few differents Ella has given me have been way out of my comfort zone. I’ve felt scared, exhilarated, unsure and giddy. Yet today’s different was a whole new experience. It totally. Slowed. Me. Down. And not just physically. It actually changed the way I processed things mentally. It made me come to a dead stop and think.

Today I was blindfolded for the day. I couldn’t see anything, and had to adjust the way I did regular things. The morning started off pretty well. Brushing my teeth was easy; the challenge was getting the toothpaste on the toothbrush. I didn’t worry about what my hair looked like because I just threw it in a ponytail. Getting dressed was manageable because it was just like getting dressed in the dark. So what if pouring the milk on my cereal wasn’t totally successful… when I say not successful, I mean it was a disaster. The milk, it was everywhere.

But when Ella took me downtown, my whole perspective changed. As I walked down my street to the bus stop, I kicked over three garbage cans. When we crossed the street, I tripped on the curb and skinned my knee. When the bus pulled up, Ella had to guide me up the steps to get on and she had to help me to pay my fare. Downtown people rushed by, jostling me around left and right like a ball in a pinball machine. I felt frustrated, impatient, and dependent all day.

There are many people in the world who are visually impaired. Were these some of the things they experienced each day? What would it be like to live in their shoes?
Travelling on the bus or a plane would be difficult. Handling money would be hard. Do workplaces provide special tools for employees? Are social innovators trying to invent wearable technologies that help visually impaired people to see? How did my life become so insulated that this was all new to me? I was embarrassed I’d never considered this before. Hadn’t been more aware. Hadn’t listened more carefully. Maybe even hadn’t been more helpful when asked.

This different made me think in ways I should have been thinking before. How could I be part of creating change? What action could I take to make society more inclusive? As teenagers, we sometimes feel insignificant. Invisible. But we actually have serious power. For example, we know how to get messages out. Email. Tweeting. Blogs. We could write a politician. Start a petition. Volunteer. Join a local advocacy group. Walk in a protest march. There’s so many ways we can raise our voices and step up to make the world a more inclusive and empathetic place. We aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow. We can actually be leaders today!

—jpxd

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