In the morning on the way to work, I walk by the Paulista University. So, it is common that I end up walking with many of the students on the way to class. The other day, just as I got about 50 yards from the school, one of the public buses made a stop and the driver helped a young blind man off the bus. He reached out to grab someone nearby to help the man get to his destination, and … well, that person ended up being me.
If it wasn’t for the language barrier which is more than any other place we lived, it would not be a problem. The driver grabbed me by the sleeve and placed the young man’s hand on my arm as I tried to tell him I did not understand Portuguese. He rattled off something in Portuguese and boarded the bus and drove off, with several people gawking at me from the bus windows.
So, I started to panic. I removed his hand from my arm, and grabbed hold of his arm in case he tripped … or something. I had no idea what to do with this man. I couldn’t get my phone out to use the translator app, because he was blind. So, I did what I usually do when get thrust in with the Brazilians. I say, “Eu não entendo português”. (I do not understand Portuguese). He looked toward my direction with his eyes rolled up into his eye sockets and replied, “I speak leetle English.”
Okay. First hurdle, now the next. “Do you need to go to the University?”
He moved my hand from his arm and gently slipped his hand under my arm. That simple gesture made me relax. I was no longer leading him, but simply walking with him. He said, “Yes. I am study computer science.”
Okay. Second hurdle has been reached.
So, I gently moved him around the corner and walked to where I thought the students entered the building. He kept tapping his cane back and forth in front of him, until he came to a point where the ground shifted to a slight incline near a corner of a wall. At that point, he knew where he was and thanked me for my help.
I found such a simple act of helping a young blind student get to his class, a thought provoking moment for those of us who take our sight, and everything else for granted.
But I was happy to let him go, and as I continued walking to the consulate, I was reminded there are people walking among us not born of woman, who are placed here to test/teach us. I wondered if he was such a person, and if he was, did I pass?