I’ve been racking my brain the past week thinking of how to answer a friend. “How is it that you look at the world and see things so very differently?” she asked me. “Where does that come from? And can you teach others to do the same?”
Some of it might simply be my nature. At the same time, I am convinced that my worldview was greatly impacted by the fact that, when I was little, our family was close friends with a husband and wife who were blind. We attended the annual parties for the Pretoria Association for the Blind despite the fact that none of the Booysen clan were visually impaired. Or so we thought.
Through our friendship with Dan and Martie, we learned to see the world differently. We learned ways to “look with our hands,” touching kitchen counters, for example, to check if they’re really clean. And we learned more significant lessons, like always allowing someone who is visually impaired to simply slip their arm into yours so they can follow rather than be pushed, a lesson that extends far beyond the obvious.
By the time I was in college, it was happy to learn that our dormitory was to house Martine, an incoming freshman, and Hettie, her guide dog. Through my friendship with Martine, I grew to appreciate the world around me even more. She taught me to see with my ears, with my hands, with my nose. And from Martine and many others, I learned to see with my heart.
Along the way, other experiences have sharpened those skills. Moving to the US at age 18 for a year and to Taiwan at 25 for several years similarly made an indelible imprint on the way I look at the world. Since Taiwan, I’ve lived in several other countries, and each time I encounter a new culture, I am gifted with yet another frame through which to look at the world around me—and the world within. For it matters not how many countries I’ve called home; if my heart had not changed along the way, I’d be no different than I was before I met Martine, or even before Dan and Martie, for that matter.
In Taiwan, though, I learned how to slip my hand into Jesus’ arm and let him lead me through the alleyways of a city where at first, I couldn’t understand nor read a single word. Not knowing anyone with whom I could share thoughts about what I observed around me—the smells, the tastes, the sights and the sounds—Jesus became my travel buddy extraordinaire. Close to three decades and seven passports full of stamps later, he’s still that and so much more.