We had the privilege of going to a picnic organised by the Western Cape branch of Retina South Africa. It was a time for families of visually impaired and blind people to get together and hang out.
Well, I have never felt so comfortable at a social gathering. Usually meeting strangers would be very stressful for me, not being able to recognise faces or make eye contact. Even socialising with that number of people that I know would put me on ‘high alert’… On this day, however, I was free to go up to anyone. Touch their arm and say, “Who are you?”, “what are you doing here?”, “How do you cope with transport?”, “Who does the shopping?” and other seemingly rude and straightforward questions that are not usually appropriate on first meeting. It was so refreshing to be so open about struggles we have in common. We even rivalled enthusiastically and chatted about who had which genetic defect and on what gene (thanks to the UCT Genetics Department).
The thing that stood out the most was the amount of laughter and noise! No awkward silences and no visual ‘sum-ups’ or whatever happens when it is quiet. There were so many people, from all walks of life, just grateful to be alive and have families around them. I think that being the person with the visual problem is sometimes easier than being the family member. It was wonderful for the loved ones to also be able to share around a common life challenge.
We all have struggles in life, but on this occasion, what seemed on the outside like a gathering of victims, was a celebration of victory’s.