My name is Amla Mehta and I am legally blind. During my sophomore year in high school, at the age of 16, I was diagnosed with a rare eye disorder called Gyrate Atrophy. Gyrate Atrophy causes significant vision loss over time and eventually blindness occurs between the ages of 45 and 60. Currently, I have what is commonly known as “tunnel vision,” which is basically like viewing life through binoculars.

A few years ago, my ophthalmologist predicted that the majority of my vision would be lost by the age of 50. Throughout the years of high school, college, and beyond, I have been inundated with challenges, while facing gradual vision loss. Living in Canton, Connecticut is extremely difficult getting around when one doesn’t drive. The state of Connecticut does not provide sufficient public transportation for those living outside of Hartford. Therefore, I heavily depend upon rides. One of my consistent struggles, especially with “friends,” is the occasional need for rides. For instance, when a friend offers me a ride and I graciously accept, and in the car he or she makes a snide comment like, “You know, I am going out of my way for you by giving you a ride.” I feel awkward and inferior. Should I applaud and commend them for doing such a good deed?

As a blind lady, I acknowledge that I should not take rides for granted, nor do I ask for such assistance all the time. I try to understand others’ needs and boundaries. However, when someone who claims to be my friend makes condescending remarks while doing me a favor, sometimes I feel like I’m not valued as a human being. In addition, I feel like I owe them something in return because they offered a ride. I would hope that those who befriend me would understand my situation and would want to help me out with rides from time to time. As the saying goes, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Friends should give unconditionally without any expectations in return.

I know I am a loyal and sincere friend myself, and if a friend needs my help, I am there no questions asked. Friends should have compassion toward one another. However, there is a big difference between compassion and feeling pity for someone. Ironically enough, as a visually impaired person, I feel more compassion for others because everyone struggles. I am not expecting to be treated like a princess, but I merely want to feel respected by others, especially by true friends. I believe that people may perceive me as weak because of my vulnerability as a blind person and treat me any way they choose. Unfortunately, you cannot always count on people to be compassionate.

I value and honor myself. Just because one gives me a ride, does not mean I am a “charity case.” I know within my heart and soul, I give because I want to, not because it’s the right thing to do. Most importantly, when all is said and done, just because I have encountered these negative circumstances does not mean I have any right to be bitter or negative toward anyone in return. In the end, I do not have any control over how others treat me, but it does not prevent me from feeling diminished and hurt. However, on the other side of the coin, these particular instances only enable me to grow stronger. As the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.”

Ultimately, I acknowledge who I am on all levels, spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally and I have nothing to prove. What matters is that I approve of myself. Each one of us matters, so make it count by being kind and loving beings to one another, despite the “cards” you are dealt within your individual lives. Love, Light and compassion to all!

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