In the Autumn of 1999, as a result of my work with Children in Crossfire, I went to Malawi in Africa. It was the first time I ever visited an African country. As you can imagine it was a very humbling and sad experience for me.
On one of the days, I was driven to a small village in a very remote rural area. Due to the fact that I was blind, one of the local villagers guided me around and described the scene. As we walked around the area I was aware of being followed by what seemed like all the local children. One of the women from the village said the reason why there was so much excitement was because the children never saw a white person before. It never occurred to me until that moment how different I looked or how I stood out among the crowd. The fact that I couldn’t see my surroundings and how different I looked didn’t enter my mind.
Without a doubt being blind has its challenges but the scenario outlined above prompted me to think about blindness and the gift it can be sometimes. It is incredible when you think of the amount of prejudice that exists in the world based on eye-sight. How often have individuals attracted unwanted attention because of how they looked? How many times have we formed an opinion of someone before they utter a word? How often have people been singled out or attacked because of the clothes they wear, because they wear a school uniform that indicates their religion or because their style of dress is different? It is incredible to think that if the whole world was blind there would be no such thing as racism based on the colour of someone’s skin. It is important to remember behind every façade, beyond what you see there is a person, a human being that is worth getting to know.
One of the greatest gifts of blindness is when you meet someone, you see the person first. Lord we pray that we have eyes to see people the way you see us.
Richard Moore is the founder of Children in Crossfire, a charity responding to the rights and needs of children and young people caught in the crossfire of global poverty, injustice and inequality. www.childrenincrossfire.org