Last Saturday, me and two friends went to visit a center for people who face challenges with their vision. The aim of the visit was to know more about this segment of the community as we are planning to volunteer as organizers in a series of athletic games for this segment. These games are to be held in Amman next Friday. During which, this segment will compete against people who can see. To me, this visit was especially important as I wanted to know more about this event and how my presence can be beneficial for them and I was also in it for the new experience.
I must say that I was impressed by the people I met at the center. They are truly amazing individuals with fascinating skills, great personalities, and a great sense of humor. While they were telling us about their lives, I couldn’t help but feel shame in myself. I was ashamed of myself for not knowing more about them, but then again it was not really my fault but rather the fault of a community that fails to integrate anyone with special physical or mental needs into its regular framework.
The key speaker at the event told us some of the experiences they face. Apart from the challenges caused by their loss of eye-sight, their real challenge is that caused from people’s assumptions and reactions towards them. He told us that in some cases, people would talk to them in a condescending tone. Others would wonder why they are out in the street, thus assuming that a person who can’t see must not leave the house. Some people in the society look at them with a sense of pity while others simply don’t know how to deal with them. Hearing some of these reactions, I realized that society’s greatest handicap is not a physical or mental challenge one could be born with but rather it is its people’s own thoughts. Our destructive thoughts could be the true handicap for us to overcome. Our reactions to people with special physical or mental needs reflects our true mentalities and even reveals a true impediment more severe than theirs.
But this understanding doesn’t apply only to how we deal with these people, but rather to life at large. After all, it is our thoughts that dictate our actions, our perceptions, and our choices. If we are people who cannot accept anyone different to us, then we are challenged in our thoughts. If we get offended the minute someone disagrees with us then we are also challenged. If we are people who can’t forgive fellow human beings for their human mistakes then we definitely the ones with a problem, and if we are people who let pre-set beliefs dictate our reactions then we are the people with a true handicap.
How many of us have sat in gatherings only to be judged for simple life choices. For example, if one is not religious then it is possible for him/her to instantly labeled as bad. If a woman is not married by the time she hits 40 then she is instantly labled a case of pity. If a man is not married by the age of 40 he is being childish. If a girl is without a job she is a daddy’s girl and if a man is without a job then he is not serious about his life. Let’s face it, these are all stereotypes in our community. Just like it is a stereotype that someone with a handicap should sit at home and feel sorry for him/herself.
I understand that we learn our basic beliefs from our families as children but then it us up to us to expand our horizons , meet new people, see other alternatives, and accept the good, the bad, and the ugly thoughts that we come across in life. Let’s think of it this way, our parents have lived in a generation before ours. Their thoughts were good for their time. If they instilled in us good values, that is great. But, it is up to us to refurbish these good values to fit our times and our needs.
At the end of any day, our thoughts are the most dangerous obstacles we need to overcome in our life. Unlike other challenges, they cannot be overcome by learning a sign language, Brill, going to a school for people with special needs, or simply reading more. Our impeding thoughts can only be changed by our own realization and our own determination to do so.
The big question is, how many of us are really willing to overcome the challenges caused by our own thoughts?
You can read more about the event happening Friday here