Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chance Encounters Are Often The Best

Had an all-too brief but fun conversation with a woman in my beloved O’Hare Airport with a blind woman on her way to a conference in Louisville, Kentucky.  The conference was for people who work with prisoners, teaching them braille so that they can translate textbooks for blind students.   
The woman was fascinating.  She has been blind all her life and has been reading Braille since the second grade.  This was her first time on her own in twenty years but she was delightful, seemed completely brave, competent, bright and was absolutely terrified.  She was also getting the runaround on the phone about whether someone would be picking her up at the airport when she arrived at the airport in Louisville.  No one there seemed concerned that she was more than a bit handicapped either.  
We spoke of the ubiquitous Braille in restrooms and elevators. I said I’d never seen them used ever in my life.  She said that they are used often by many, but that the problem with them is that there is no uniformity in their placement so it’s difficult for the blind to find them to use them!  Hilarious.   
I spoke to her of a friend who has diabetes who is now blind, who has her doctorate so is not stupid, and is now learning braille, and her chances of becoming competent.  She said her problem might be neuropathy, but she still could do it.
Her problems with work with prisoners is not with the prisoners themselves but with the prison system.  Obviously, she works with long-term prisoners, those who either have long sentences or life sentences.  But the problem is that she works with privately-run prison systems, and consequently their funding runs out, and her workers are moved all over the place, from Wyoming, to California, from hither to yon and are governed by different  regulations and restrictions.  Also, by definition, funding for her work is very limited.  
Needless to say, however, what she is doing  is so wonderful.  She is providing something needed for those few who need to learn.  Textbooks would be otherwise too costly for blind students.  Plus she is helping  to provide an opportunity for service for those who otherwise have no chance to pay back the society they have wronged.  
Unfortunately, an aide came and took her-all-too early to another gate as her flight had been changed, but it was one of those delightful encounters that life allows only occasionally.  She was so much fun.  I wish I had gotten her name.  That’s my only regret.  


Jamie said...

Elder Maxwell spoke of these "Intersections" in a talk titled "Brim with Joy"

It should not surprise us, brothers and sisters, that Heavenly Father brings about these intersectings and intertwinings of our lives. So often (after something is over) we will say, "little did I realize" or "I had no way of knowing" in referring to these intersectings. But why should we be surprised? Each of us has circles of friendships, and within those lie the portion of the human family whom God has given us to love, to serve, and to learn from.

Within each of our circles of friendship there lie so many unused opportunities to love, to serve, and to be taught. Indeed, one could apply the scriptural phrase about there being "enough and to spare" (D&C 104:17). None of us ever fully utilizes the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersectings "coincidence." This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by "coincidence" but instead by "divine design."

Linda Aukschun said...

How beautiful, Jamie. Thank you. I believe she was a gift more than just a little chance. You are wonderful.

Bonnie said...

Thank you for sharing this! It reminds me of an encounter I had with an old man in China. The encounter was so brief it mat be lasted maybe one minute or two at most! Yet I've never forgotten it. And, another time with an older woman in DSW Shoe Store of all places. Thank you Jamie for sharing Elder Maxwell's teachings on this! Here is my blog post, with a picture of this man:

Lindsey said...

Some day I want to be as brave as you about talking to people. I think I could learn way more from people around me if I was more friendly. Everyone has a story to tell and you are so good at finding them!