There are so many amazing individuals that I could honor with our topic this month: real life heroes/heroines. I’m grateful for our service men and women, firefighters, police officers, and soldiers who risk so much to keep us safe. Medical professionals work tirelessly to care for us. Teachers sacrifice their time and, more times than not, their own money to educate us. Everyday Good Samaritans act without thought to help those in need.
In fact, there are so many heroes among us that we could fill millions of web pages just telling their stories. For my blog post, however, I’m going to write about one of the first heroes I’d ever met: my optometrist.
I met Dr. K when I was in elementary school. During those first two years, I was a fair student. I excelled in art and music class. I loved listening to Mrs. Cain during library hour. But math, reading, and English were hit or miss. Sometimes I was on fire and other times… not so much. In addition, I spent more time with my nose against the dimpled cinder block wall than I did outside, enjoying recess and the mysteries of tetherball.
My kindergarten and first grade teachers listed “Has trouble paying attention in class” on my report cards. But what none of us knew at the time was that I couldn’t see. Life beyond ten feet from me was this hazy, watery world of color smears and indistinct shapes. I thought everyone’s world was just like that. I thought everyone memorized where things were in order to navigate and paid close attention to the inflection in people’s voices (all the better to know if you're about to get in trouble).
It wasn’t until even my squinting couldn’t help me see the chalkboard that someone figured out why I was such a sweet :) but wayward child.
Soon after this observation, I received my first pair of glasses. They were heavy, sliding down my nose all the time, and so thick that the outer edges created a rounded, fishbowl effect. But the important part was, I could see.
Up until that day, I hadn’t known that I couldn’t see. I’d adapted to my 8-crayon world. I walked to school every day. I opened the combination to my locker. And I even sat in my assigned seat, complete with my name on a tape strip above the pencil trench. I hadn’t known that a 96-crayon world awaited me.
I remember stepping outside Dr. K’s office, preparing to walk home (thankfully, it had been a straight shot and only 10 short blocks away). I’d been more worried about whether or not to push my glasses up my nose with a single finger to the bridge in the middle, or with a pinch at the temple. It wasn’t until I’d taken a few steps that I noticed something remarkable.
Trees. Rows of trees lined the street and each of them filled with leaves. Five-pointed leaves, too, not fuzzy shapes all smushed together on branches. And when the breeze stirred them, there was a different silvery color underneath. Not only that, but there were veins, like those on my mother’s hands. As I walked, I saw that the grass was an even different shade of green. So were the tall, unkempt bushes in front of the scary house that I always rushed past, breath held, heart in my throat. And it was all so beautiful, so heaven-sent that I knew Dr. K was either an angel or someone very special. Perhaps both.
My hero helps people see. He’s near retirement now, but his office is still in the same place. The same paneling covers the office walls where the lighted letter cube awaits my ability to read the bottom row. Outside, those trees and the scary house are gone. But each time I have an appointment with Dr. K, I always remember that first day when I realized everything I’d been missing. The day of my own miracle. It’s something I’ll never take for granted.