Last week I had shoulder surgery, leaving me without the use of my dominant arm for several weeks. Having the use of only one arm is humbling and eye opening. Previously simple tasks like putting my hair up in a ponytail or needing to cut up my dinner are things I haven’t sorted out one handed and thus must ask for help with now.
A few nights before my surgery, a friend gifted my husband and I a date night at The Blind Cafe, whose mission is to initiate ‘positive social change’ in the lives of everyone who participates in their programs. We participated in a blind dinner and concert experience. Over the course of the night, we learned more about blindness from our blind wait staff, were asked to actively listen in a community setting (there is a lot of background noise your brain normally tunes out!), and of course ate a meal in complete darkness. This experience encouraged my husband and me to relate to other community members with a deeper sense of compassion and openness, especially those who are different than we are.
While I’d like to say that I know what it feels like to only have one arm, I only know what it’s like to not be able to use my arm for a few weeks knowing all the while that my situation is temporary.
While I’d like to say that for two hours I knew what it felt like to be blind, I only know what it was like to voluntarily give up the sense of sight for two hours knowing full well I’d walk back into the light and sight of my life.
Yet in these experiences the empathy and compassion I have for those who live the situations I only experience from time to time grows exponentially. The sense of responsibility to appreciate what I do have and respect those who don’t have the same functionality yet live in a world designed for the masses grows exponentially. In these experiences, I gain perspective on how things might be.
So while we may never know exactly what it is like to have only one arm, to be blind, or to be different in any number of ways, we can, and should find ways to experience different perspectives. Perspectives deepen our understanding and expand our capacity to be empathetic, compassionate, appreciative, and respectful empowering human connection to flourish.
What will you do to gain some perspective and create connection?