I could picture her, a petite 13-year-old, of East Indian heritage, sitting in the middle school classes I taught at the convent. Beaming, beautiful, and blind—totally blind.
Her parents wanted her to have as normal a life as possible— as normal an education as possible—so that she would acquire the necessary skills to be able to function in a sighted world. That year she was the only student with this disability. I could see her making her way across the courtyard with her white-tipped cane, fearless, confident, alone or in the company of friends—and there were quite a few willing to assist at any time.
In our many conversations there were never any hints at self-pity, anger, or difficulty about her circumstances; she took it all in stride. She possessed, as they say, a certain je ne sais quoi about her, an apparent calm, a self-assured, trusting manner that I couldn’t fathom, even when I sat for a “visual” (in which she carefully and gently touched my face, eyes, cheeks, nose, and mouth to get a “picture” of me).
She listened and incorporated the lessons that we, the sighted ones, glossed
over, took for granted.
Then came her request: would I record a few hymns for her—spoken, not sung?
Why? That was puzzling. Surely she was in my music classes (and after all, I didn’t think my singing voice was all that bad!).
No! She wanted them read, because she found the voice to be soothing to her ear, allowing her to hear the different cadences. She insisted that she could better formulate pictures in her mind, she could hear joy, sadness, light, hope; she could experience peace, and perhaps have a sense of what God must be like, because she could listen with her “inner ear,” her heart or mind. To her, the voice was simply the conduit of these words. The music, pleasant as it was, often interrupted those pictures.
We recorded over our lunch break, outside in the shade of one of the many wide-spreading trees. She brought her cassette tapes and her tape recorder, which she used continuously to record every class session. The hymns chosen revealed a lot: “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” spoke of a promise and a trust in God; “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”—of prayer and trust in God; “I Do Not Ask, O Lord”—a declaration of acceptance, and trust in God; “He Liveth Long Who Liveth Well”—a guidepost to living, and trust in God.
Ah—there it was! These hymns brought her peace of mind; the words she listened to with her “inner ear” kept her grounded, made her fearless, or rather, more trusting. She listened and incorporated the lessons that we, the sighted ones, glossed over, took for granted. As a result, she was able to exude peace of mind, joy, love—some of the natural consequences of a sincere trust in God.
I wish I knew where Angie is today. I pray that we all take the time to really listen with our “inner ear” so that we too may learn to trust God and gain peace of mind.
Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste is editorial assessment coordinator for Adventist Review Ministries.