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Second Sight

When I was an infant I attended a Church of England Primary school, where we had assemblies every day. In each assembly there would be a little talk and we would sing some songs. I was always amazed how my friends all knew the words, when I never knew any of them. Somehow, they could all remember all of the words to every song. Even the songs that I didn’t remember ever singing before. I often wondered if I had been off sick the day that they all learnt them. Or perhaps more likely I was daydreaming and didn’t even realise that we were being taught them. But what I lacked in memory and the ability to pay attention, I made up for in skill and craftiness. I developed a technique of singing whatever my friends sang, only a fraction after them. This may not have made me look like a very good singer, but no-one suspected that I didn’t know the words.

Then one day everything changed. I went to school proudly wearing my first ever pair of glasses. Imagine my surprise when I realised that the words to every song were always displayed on a big screen at the front of the assembly, I had just never been able to see them before! I felt a little cheated and it took me a little while to break the habit of singing after everyone else, but eventually I enjoyed the freedom of being able to just read the words like everyone else. Thereafter, I would regularly get new pairs of glasses with updated prescriptions. It never ceased to amaze me how much better I could see with each new pair of glasses, I never realised what I couldn’t see until I could see it!

That’s a funny thing, isn’t it? We don’t know what we’re missing until we find it. It doesn’t matter how much we might need it or how much of a difference it would make to us, it can’t do anything for us unless we find it (or it finds us). And it’s very difficult to find something that you neither know is there or that you should be looking for it! Looking back at not knowing how everyone else knew the words apart from me, I can see that there were certain things that stopped me from knowing them. Yes, there was my eyesight, but that was simply solved. The tricky part was knowing that there were words that I couldn’t see. But if I had just asked my friends how they knew the words when I didn’t, I’d have worked it out very quickly. So why didn’t I?

Well, because I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know the words. I didn’t want to admit my weakness particularly when I was the only one who seemed to have it. I was ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t want my friends to look down on me. But the only way to ask for help is to admit that you need help, yet my pride caused me to stumble along on my own. As I look back at those school assemblies, I wonder about my life now. I wonder what I’m blind to. I wonder what’s there that I won’t realise until finally I can see it. And I wonder where perhaps my pride stops me from asking for help to see so much more.

Originally written for the May 2022 ABC Newsletter

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