Reality Behind the Label

So, I have this beautiful guide dog. He is a total babe, as cute as ... well, I can't find a suitable comparison because he is just that much of a doll! People know I am blind when I walk with Nacho. I'm good with that. I choose that. In fact, a portion of my heart hopes that blindness will be less of a factor when I walk with Nacho. Perhaps because the "elephant in the living room" will be so obviously addressed by the presence of my beautiful labby boy, people can get beyond the fact that my eyes don't work. After all, many other parts of me work quite well, including my voice, my brain, my heart, and my imagination.

Do I as a teacher always get beyond the "elephant in the living room" for my students? When the star athlete sits down, or the valedictorian, or the homeless girl, or the autistic boy, do I always go past that initial label to seek who is behind that label? Am I as guilty of stopping with surface identification as some people are when they just see my blindness and don't go beyond? I hope not. I have often said I am blessed to be blind because I have to know people for more than their physical traits. I still hold that belief, but I ponder if I pull out my own blinders when I encounter one of those labels and say, "Ah, here is the athlete or the valedictorian or the homeless child or the autistic child." Do I truly look to learn the voice, brain, heart, and imagination of all my students?

The following poem is one I wrote for a writing contest sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind this year. It speaks to me about how we all need better vision to see the multi-dimensional beauty of the people in our lives.
Seeing Beyond Seventy-Five Million

I am strong, silly, smart, sensitive,
Musical, mysterious, motivated, maddening,
Faithful, flawed, free, frustrating,
Blind.

I am tall, timid, truthful, trusting,
Pleasant, pathetic, profound, powerful,
Creative, crusty, confused, caring,
Blind.

I am happy, haunted, hysterical, hidden,
Willing, wanting, wondering, worn,
Chattery, childish, chipper, challenged,
Blind.

I am seventy-five million things, if I truly stopped to count,
More adjectives than snowflakes in winter,
As varied as a field of wildflowers,
And yet, some see only "blind."

Today, as I say, speak, steady, support,
When I lead, lift, lighten, love,
As I tread, talk, tell, teach,
May my own vision be better than that.