“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”
— Hellen Keller
My grandmother visited me last night.
It was during a Toastmasters Table Topics contest, (an impromptu speaking competition), when we were asked to relate what a quotation from Hellen Keller meant to us. Paraphrased,
“It is better to be blind than to have physical sight but be unable to see.”
Because there was no time to prepare, I let my thoughts wander for a few seconds. My mind took me back many years. Back to my grandmother in northern Minnesota.
I remembered the meals she prepared, the cookies she made, her hugs, and laughter. I remember silly things like laughing over old photographs and stinky things like emptying her compost bucket. We shoveled snow, swatted mosquitoes, and played games of scrabble and croquet. Together, we took walks and we played whist.
But what brought her back to me on this particular night was a memory of my final visit to her. I had brought my family to see her in Duluth. She had grown quite old and frail and lived alone in a nursing home, my grandfather many years gone. It was a lovely time and when we left, she spoke her final words to me.
We were standing in the hallway of the nursing home, a large group of us gathered together saying goodbye. Grandma stood their too, her hand on another’s arm for guidance, shaky and frail. She had grown blind.
It wasn’t even so much what she said, but how she said it. She had let go of her guide, pushed past everyone and somehow made it to me in that crowd. I don’t know how she found my arm, but she did. Taking a firm grip, with a strength belying her frailty but revealing her strength in character, she looked at me in the off-center way a blind person does and simply said, “Godspeed, Eric.”
I think Grandma could always see more in me than I could. She was raised tough as nails, but could always look past the jagged outer edges of a teenager and see the delicate feelings underneath. She saw potential in a gangly kid when there was none on display. She saw something unseen.
How much do we see, everyday. Do we see the miraculous and the sublime in our day-to-day lives? In the middle of summer when the leaves are green, can we see the glorious fall colors of a tree? Are we able we see the best in others? Will we elect to see good people doing good things? Or do we see fault, failure, and frustration?
What we see is up to us. What we give our time and our thoughts to is under our control. There’s beauty all around, both seen and unseen. If we choose to look.
My grandmother always seemed to see the best in me. And, maybe, if she were still here she might see something good that I can’t see. But, I hope at least that I can take a bit of wisdom from her and learn to see the potential and good in my family, my friends, my neighbors, and all the people around me.
My grandmother came to visit me last night. Unseen, but seen.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Gave my daughter a separate ride to school so she could get some extra sleep. … Also, helped our contest chairperson carry out some extra stuff to her car after the division contest last night. … Congratulations to all the contestants in Toastmasters D7 Sunset Division contests, especially James who won Table Topics and got 2nd in Humorous!