We are continuing our Guest Post series, with a post from one of our most committed and enthusiastic members, Kerry Kijewski. Kerry is a writer and blogger, who was born visually impaired.
In this post, Kerry writes about how she experiences different kinds of compassion from people because of her blindness. She explains why she’s happy to receive compassion, but not pity.
People stare, but that’s okay because I can’t see them doing it anyway. It’s those I’m out with that can’t help noticing. Sometimes they enlighten me, but most of the time I am sure it is easier just to bite their tongue and say nothing. Sometimes, however, their indignant reactions on my behalf make me aware of the fact.
Toward me directly, I would say I receive only compassion and kindness. It isn’t proper, in 2015, to treat someone with a disability with anything less than that. Sure, the cases of abuse and prejudice do happen and make the news, but I am lucky to be living in 2015. however, compassion, as sad as it sounds, only goes so far. I want more than that and I have my work cut of for me, if I want to make the difference. I’ve been given the chance, to speak in this unique place, where compassion is the aim and the point, so I thought I would say my piece here, where I know I have an audience of those who are ready and willing to listen.
I am one of the 1000 voices, one of the 1000 speaking for compassion, and I am happy to be so, but I want more than this. I’m realizing that there aren’t enough people, the ones living with the disabilities, speaking up and making our presence known and our opinions heard in the midst of the roar and the noise.
Other times it’s a silence. In those silent moments I ponder what to expect from the world. I know I am accepted, but I don’t always feel it yet. It might take a while. How can I make them notice me, that I’m here, that others like myself are here? How can I get them to care?
It’s really hard to care, when there are so many people in need, people needing something. I hate to add to that need, to be a bother, but I need more. I want to fit in, but not if that means I stop caring myself. Compassion isn’t enough. Acceptance and not pity is what compassion means to me, in my experience of the world. Compassion can, for other people, so easily look like pity to me. It can look like sympathy, a relief that they could feel like they knew how to speak to me, how to treat me, and like they did and said all the right things. What a relief, but this limits us all.
When compassion doesn’t result in action, when it’s nothing more than lip service, it doesn’t get us anywhere. Or, at least, not far enough. I need it to go farther. I must push a little further still. Don’t mind me.
I honestly feel like one of the advantages of lack of sight is that I don’t have all those pesky visual distractions. I can focus on everything other people say. I can concentrate on emotions and my gut feelings about others, but that does not guarantee that those gut feelings are always correct. Maybe my gut feelings about the world are way off. Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe I should appreciate more that we’ve come this far, that compassion exists. I can’t see the stares, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there on people’s faces. Could I take advantage of the attention? Are they willing to listen, if I were just able to speak loud enough? I need to begin a dialogue – not just silent stares.
I am not distracted; however, this can work against me. I sometimes think I have too many chances to pay attention to what’s going on under the surface. I want to do as much for other people as they’ve done for me. I want to make the world better, for selfish reasons. I want things to be better for myself and for everyone else. I wish I didn’t care sometimes. It’s painful and stressful. I wish I could block out the rest of the world, focus on only me, and pretend that things aren’t happening. I want to let it out. I wish I could cry, that my tears could unleash the stress of the world I feel so heavily on my own two shoulders. I want to see more and feel less, but I can’t.
It feels like the hurt I have for the state of the world is going to cause my heart to burst out of my chest, but perhaps that would release me from the invisible ropes that I feel holding me back. My compassion has been a part of my name. Kerry sounds like care. People call me Kerr and I have always been the nice one, the kind girl. I know I can use my unique experience of life for something greater than myself. I can speak, using the voice I possess, to make people aware of how vital compassion is, that simply coasting by in life, not caring, that these things won’t do.
People give me breaks. They cut me slack. They make exceptions for me. I see the compassion in this because it is there – really, it is. I often need it, if I ever want to get anywhere, but, on the other hand, with these things continuing as they are, I will never be able to make a difference, to have my voice heard. I don’t want these sorts of compassionate attitudes to limit me or to make people believe that’s enough, that that’s all it takes, is required of them, or for me to succeed.
You care so much you feel as though you will bleed to death with the pain of it.
–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Kerry is a writer and blogger. She was born visually impaired. She writes to make sense of the world around her. Without words she truly would be in the dark.
She has a Certificate of Creative Writing and has written a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).