Dancing in the Dark

Yesterday I had the rather unique experience of attending a dance class for the seeing-impaired. My sculptor/painter friend,  Zoé is to blame for inviting me deeper into her blurry world.

Allow me to share with you some of what went though my mind (and my feet):

  • First of all, I didn’t know how to cha-cha-cha or salsa or do any other steps they already knew. Although the “seeing” teacher had pity on me and tried to bring me up to speed (after all it should be easy for me, right….I can see!), it was various “non-seeing” partners who knew when and how I was making a mess of things. They didn’t need to see my tangled feet, they could feel it and make much needed suggestions.  There is something beautifully counter-intuitive about actually being led by the blind.
  • Secondly…I wasn’t normal. They seemed to have a heightened sense of touch, feeling, movement and sound that  allowed them to enjoy more fully those fleeting moments of pretty-well preformed dance. Besides that, when we all walked back to the metro…they all had fancy talking gadgets, cool expandable white sticks or amazingly intelligent seeing eye dogs. They were holding on to each other, walking and laughing… again, enjoying the moment. I, on the other hand, just walked and dealt with all the other visual distractions they ignored.
  • Each time I enter into this world of the “mal-voyant“,  I learn something about helping out in a more sensitive way. In French they call it “sensibilisation“.  Zoé and her friends are very eager to help the willing learner with all sorts of tips. For instance, the other night at a dinner party, I was seated beside Samira, a young woman with retina problems. When the meal was served, I was able to quietly say to her, “Meat is at 6 o’clock. salad at 10 and beans at 2.” She in turn, praised me by saying, “that was exactly what I needed to know.” Fortunately, I had overheard that very practical tip about how to be helpful earlier in the evening.

I’m not exactly sure what it is, but there’s something about all of this that intersects with what I see as the “kingdom of God”. In the early days when Jesus was trying to tell people what he was all about, he included this phrase…”to give sight to the blind” (Luke 4)….I haven’t been given any healing powers, but I can play a very small role in creating a better world, a better “kingdom” where peace and justice reign, where the oppressed are liberated, the sick are cared for and where the blind….well, if not given literal sight, are at least receiving from me a little more understanding, a slightly more sensitive helping hand and a lot more admiration.

And yes, I plan to return to the dance class.  Next time I may even take a blindfold in an attempt to feel a bit more “normal.”