When my best friend Sergey was in the fourth grade it was discovered, more or less accidentally, that he was nearsighted. In fact, he was blind without glasses. Why no one had figured this out previously I really don't know. Sergey hadn't figured it out. He had no other experience of seeing. I guess every blind person experiences the world as a great blurred mass of confusion. Our teachers in the first three grades should certainly have been aware of it. But if they were they apparently didn't care. They preferred, I suppose, just to think he was stupid. Sergey was stupid… How could one not be stupid if they can't read the blackboard or the flash cards from which they are supposed to learn the multiplication tables or how to read and to pronounce and so forth? So he was given glasses. Thick ones. Our school friends, otherwise reasonably friendly and understanding, immediately labeled him "four eyes." They didn't think it was mean, I guess, it was just that wearing glasses was not what they did. And although it was occasionally used as an insult, it did not seem to cost Sergey any friends. He was still accepted.
But later he learned that wearing thick glasses did not help in growing up. If he tried any form of sports with the glasses on little boy inevitably broke them causing his father's anger. If he played without his glasses...well, he just couldn't. But even so anyone ever thought of my friend as being handicapped, or as even personally sensitive about his suffering.
I've never seen anyone approach a one legged person with, "that's a really interesting stump you've got there, don’t you mind if I try on your artificial leg?" I've never seen anyone tell someone in a wheelchair, "what's the matter, can't you walk," or observing to someone with cerebral palsy that, "that's a mighty funny twitch," or some such thing. But charity doesn't extend to the myopic.
If you really need glasses badly and don't happen to have them you can't drive, can't watch television, can't recognize your friends unless they come right up to you, and can't even read unless you hold the book a couple of inches from your nose, which is most embarrassing. It’s not much fun going to parties and having everyone insist on trying on your glasses and then carrying on about how blind you must be without even a trace of delicacy. They don't go around asking people to let them try on their hearing aid, or play with their wheelchair, or their artificial arm. Thank heavens for contact lenses. Nobody asks to try them on.
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