His name was Rowan*. He was about three or four years old, and I'll probably not forget his face. He won't forget mine, but for different reasons. He cannot forget it, because he never saw it. Rowan is stone cold blind.
He came into the store where I work today, accompanied by two other small children and three adult minders. A cheerful, towheaded imp of a lad, wielding a specialized cane with a roller ball on the tip. He was smiling from the first moment I saw his face.
To see that face was to know that his eyes simply did not work. I chatted a bit with his guardian and she said he had been completely sightless since birth. The other children, two adorable little girls, were also legally blind but did have some limited sight. The group was visiting from a local school for the blind, and today was "O" day. They were out visiting stores like ours to get tactile and sensory impressions of things that started with "O". Like olive oil from the shop down the street. Oregano and orange peel from ours. Lunch was to be at Olive Garden, a prospect at which the kids, especially Rowan, were eagerly anticipating.
I watched the kids as they were led around the store. It was humbling and enlightening to see how someone so young and without benefit of the sight that most of us give no second thought. Every pattern change, every color shift, every textural difference was an opportunity for discovery, even delight. My mind reeled at the idea of treating color and fabric as things to be sussed out, requiring more than the average effort to effect understanding of the concepts of "blue" and "carpet".
Oddly enough, I began to feel quite at ease in their presence. While they had some difficulties expressing themselves, it was a joy to watch their faces when they would take a sniff of the sample jars scattered throughout the store. A radiant happiness, pure appreciation, and something I told myself I need to watch and learn from.
It was the cinnamon that really sent my heart over the edge. All three of the kids took a big sniff of the strongest cinnamon in the store. Their faces scrunched up, mouths in a gleeful rictus of "Oh, my!" and the smiles. Oh, my god, the smiles.
Rowan looked up in the direction of his guardian's voice. I looked into his eyes, he could not see mine, and unfocused beauty lanced my heart. He grinned widely and in a loud voice announced "Cinna-MON!". Then he laughed and something divine swept throughout the store. I felt faint.
As they were ready to leave, I made a gift to them of little jars of cinnamon, some specials we had on hand. The adults were effusively grateful, thanking me repeatedly. One of them said to the little boy "What do you say for the cinnamon, Rowan? Can you say thank you?"
Rowan turned his head in my direction, looking over my shoulder but straight into my heart. His eyes were like porcelain, beautiful and glazed. I gulped.
"Thank you you for the cinna-MON!" He turned to leave, hand in hand with his guardian. "You're welcome, Rowan!" I said.
But really I should have been thanking him for teaching me more about sight in ten minutes than I think I've learned in a lifetime. I should thank him for helping me see.
*Not his real name, changed for privacy reasons.