Yesterday, I took my young daughters to ride the metro to Washington D.C. As we were standing by the tracks waiting for the train to come, I felt something hit my shoes, and I turned to see a blind man’s cane, as he was sweeping it from side to side. He said, “Excuse me,” and walked on, stopping when he felt the raised bumps by the side of the tracks.
He stood there, tall and proud, waiting like everyone else for the train. I jumped at the chance to make this a learning experience for my two daughters, since we had just been discussing visually impaired people a few weeks ago, and the different ways they get around, after we had read a book written in both English and Braille. I explained to them why the metro station had raised bumps by the side of the tracks, and told them to look at the man’s eyes and know that all he could see with them was what they could see if they closed theirs. I told my daughters to look around them at all the different colors surrounding them; the lights; the posters; all the faces of everyone passing by, then I told them that the man in front of them couldn’t see any of that. Thinking of the blessing I and everyone else around me had but couldn’t feel, I felt myself choking up.
Then the train came, and I watched as the man stood patiently back, not wanting to be jostled by all the people coming off and trying to get on. He took a step forward, waiting in line, and then it was my turn to get on, and I lost sight of him. Once safely on the train with my daughters, with the doors still open, I looked out and saw him standing there, looking a bit bewildered. Sticking my head out the door, I called to him, “Sir, you can get on now,” while the mechanical metro voice kept asking me over and over to please step back from the doors. But it was too late, and the doors closed, and the train started moving.
Oh, how my heart cried for him. If only I could have stepped back out and guided him by his arm onto the train. How could everyone pass him by and not notice his cane? Was it because he wasn’t wearing dark glasses that people didn’t notice? Are people so callous they can’t think of others before themselves? And I vowed in my heart that the next time I see someone blind, I will make sure he or she gets to where they want to go. Because then, and only then, will I have gotten to where I want to be.
Asiya lives in Virginia with her husband and twin daughters. She is an active MAS member with an ijaza (certificate) in Qur’anic recitation and tajweed, and enjoys teaching, interpreting and translating.