Very soon I will need to seek out a good optician and get tested for new glasses. I usually do this every two years but I think with the move from Dublin to Glasgow it has been much longer than that. I have very bad eyesight which I first discovered when I started at St. Peter’s Primary School in Partick back in 1956. My teacher put something up on the board and I couldn’t see it so I was sent for an eye test. As well as having bad eyesight I also had a lazy eye and had to wear a pink eye patch over my right eye for quite some time. It didn’t achieve a whole lot as my left eye remains very weak. Ever since then I have worn glasses, and such is my prescription that my lenses have to be specially made. The optician usually has to shop around to find somewhere that will make them. Throughout the time I lived in Dublin my lenses had to come at times from Germany, at other times from England, and always took weeks after the test before I would get them.
Even choosing a frame creates a problem for me. After my eye test the optician would send me next door to his assistant to choose a frame. My choice would be whittled down right away as only certain shapes and sizes of frame would take my lenses, and then I would have to ask the assistant to tell me which of the appropriate frames suited me as putting on a frame with no lenses meant I had to screw up my eyes to look in the mirror and so I wouldn’t really get the best sense of how it looked.
I had wondered for a time if my eyesight might prevent me from driving. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about not being able to ride a bike when I first joined the Passionists; well, neither could I drive. There had never been a car in the family growing up and so none of us ever learned to drive. It was only when I went to the Novitiate in 1979 that I took my first lessons and thankfully, before the novitiate was over, I had passed my test. I remember that the part I dreaded most was being asked to read the number plate of a car so many yards in front of me. When I arrived at the test centre, in a place called the Flying Horse in County Down, there were only two cars in the vicinity and I committed the number plates to memory. But thankfully, when asked, I was able to read them anyway, thanks to the gift of glasses. Over the years, with developing technology, my lenses have gone from being very thick and heavy glass, to very light and much thinner plastic – wonderful.
Being an avid reader, I would hate to lose my sight. Friends of mine, two sisters, tell the story of how, just after their grandparents got engaged, their grandfather was in an accident and lost his sight, and he said to his fiancé that he would understand if she wanted to call off the wedding, so she went off and had a think and a pray, and then came back and said no, I loved you before you lost your sight and I love you now, we’re going to get married, and so they did, and it turned out to be a long and happy marriage. The two sisters loved to speak of how their grandfather taught them to appreciate the gift of touch, and of how he loved to trace the features of their face with his hand, so as to “see” them in his own way. So, perhaps one gift is compensated by another.
I am reminded of another story, a parable really, of a relationship in which the man was sighted and the woman was blind. The man wanted to get married because he loved the woman very much, but the woman wouldn’t marry him because she was blind and she couldn’t accept it, it damaged her sense of self-worth. Sometime later she got the chance of an eye transplant and she underwent the surgery and she got her sight back again. She sought out the man who had proposed to her but was shocked to discover that he had now gone blind, and she said that she couldn’t marry him now because he was blind. The man accepted this graciously, but a little while later he wrote her a letter to wish her well, and he said please take care of those eyes, they once belonged to me, and she realised that out of his great love for her, he had given his eyes that she might see, and so now she received another gift of sight – a gift of insight, into love, even greater than the first gift.
Jesus said to Paul, 'I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:16-18)