Growing up Catholic, the traditions of Christmas were plentiful. The rituals of going to Mass, decorating our home, baking holiday treats, listening to festive music, and enjoying holiday feasts happened annually. Charitable acts and presents taught the lesson of how to graciously give and receive. (No toys until you write those thank you’s!) As a kid, it was easy to live in the generous spirit.
Intentions matter with gifts. The need to show love through physical gestures saturates America. The desire to fill a perceived loss rings true. Add stress and fear to the season and we jingle all the way into Fixer Mode. What is broken? What is wrong? Shopping for perfect gifts is like finding the solution, a cure. But, searching for perfect gifts isn’t always economical or fruitful. Can we make do with what we have?
When others realize I live with vision loss, some focus on the quest for a cure. Have I visited Remedy Road’s surgical, homeopathic, and spiritual storefronts? How close is scientific research to a cure for blindness? Well-meaning, but perhaps misguided due to American pressures to assimilate. Cure seeking ignores characteristics we already possess.
So, let’s talk medical science. In 2016, the prominent “bionic eye” available in the US is the Argus II. To qualify for the implant, patients must have retinitis pigmentosa. I do not, so that’s a dead-end. Another visual prosthetic is the Orion 1. This alternative route is blocked to me, too, as I’m not fully blind in both eyes. But let’s say I qualified for one of these fascinating medical technologies. The implants require dedicated rehabilitation effort to interpret the electrical stimulation, the new sensory input the brain encounters. It’s not like flipping a switch to light the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, vision ON.
The bottom line is this: a cure for blindness equates to a fairy tale ending. It doesn’t solve society’s inclusivity problem. It doesn’t change negative attitudes about disability. Eliminating differences weakens a culture. What’s more important than a cure is help and acceptance.
Giving Tuesday, the echo to retail’s Black Friday, encouraged donations to charity this week. Do you examine what your money funds? If you supported a group in the blindness community, what is it doing for people with vision loss? Does it encourage mobility? Job training? Accessibility technology? Emotional support services to adjust to living with a disability in a society that isn’t completely accessible? Or does the organization simply fund research for a cure? While a cure for blindness won’t happen next year, there will be millions of people living with vision loss for years to come.
I may want a cure for blindness, but I don’t need one. I don’t need extravagant gifts, either. All I want for Christmas is moments of wholehearted joy and understanding. I’m ok. I can live well with low vision. Priceless support can’t be bought, but it can be given and received. Offer it this holiday season.
How do you feel about holiday gifts and rituals? Do you like shopping? Do you donate to charity? What makes the holidays meaningful for you? Tell me about it.