The Blind Man and The Raker (12/24/00)

It was in the Spring of 1985 and one of my daily rituals was to walk to law school, a stroll that took about 10 minutes.  I was 23 years of age and feeling the pressures of school.

Never mind that I didn't have a family to support or even a tuition that I was responsible for - I was stressed. Would I make grades high enough on my final exams to put me in the top echelon of my class, thereby making me more attractive to the large law firms, which, in turn, would mean more money in my pocket? I was having trouble sleeping.

And then something quite remarkable happened on my morning walk to school.  It's the story of The Blind Man and The Raker.

But before I tell you what happened, let me digress for a moment. Baylor, like many private schools, is made up of a bunch of white, rich kids - many of whom should be required to take Manners 101 during their freshman year. Most, I ashamedly admit, won't so much as acknowledge the maintenance folks hired by the school that are always working around the campus. The maintenance folks, after years of being treated like they don't exist, aren't exactly looking up every minute to exchange a "how ya doing" with a student that just happened to walk by.

I have no idea if times have changed. I do know that was certainly the state of existence in 1985 as I set out on my daily walk to school.

I, for whatever reason, left early for class that day, and although I'm not certain of the exact time, it was well before 8:00 a.m. Although the campus would soon be bustling, there wasn't another student to be seen.

I felt as if I was walking alone.

But my solitude was soon interrupted. As I walked down the sidewalk across from the Armstrong Browning Library, I noticed a blind student walking across the street along the sidewalk.

Since I had never noticed The Blind Man before, I stared a little longer than I probably should have. He moved quickly and assuredly down the sidewalk, white cane protruding in front of him to confirm his path of travel. I assumed that he had taken that journey a number of times in the past, but that didn't exactly coincide with the fact I'd never seen him before.

Then something very awkward happened.

He came upon a curb.

Artfully using his cane, he became aware of the sudden drop off in the pavement and stopped. But then he then did something I didn't understand - he turned to make a right turn as if he had come to a street intersection. Certainly, he thought, there would be a sidewalk upon which to walk.

But there wasn't.

Instead, the curb marked the beginning of a driveway that had no sidewalk at all. He was turning to walk on to the lawn and parallel to the driveway's curb.

When The Blind Man's foot came to rest on grass instead of concrete, he stopped. Thinking that he had simply missed the sidewalk that most certainly was there, he moved to his left a little bit only to have his left foot slip off the curb and onto the sunken driveway - perhaps a six inch drop.

The Blind Man almost fell completely but he managed to keep his balance. He did, however, stop all movement as he tried to regain his composure.  He looked very confused.

I began to slow my own walk.

As I looked towards The Blind Man to see if he would regain his sense of direction, I noticed someone else - a black, elderly lawn maintenance man, rake in hand, who had also become aware of The Blind Man's plight.

But The Raker didn't see me. I almost felt like I was watching something that I shouldn't be.

I quickly glanced back to The Blind Man to see if he had recovered. To my horror, I noticed that he was preparing to attempt another step.  This time his right foot caught the side of the curb and he almost fell again.

I stopped walking completely.

The Raker, like many of us when we come in contact with the handicapped, hesitated for a moment but then apparently made a decision.  He dropped his rake and moved cautiously but quickly towards The Blind Man.

I was too far away to hear what was being said, but The Raker had one hand on The Blind Man's arm and the other on his back. I could see The Blind Man  utter a "thank you" followed by The Raker apprehensively patting him on the back.

After a few seconds, The Blind Man was back on the sidewalk confidently heading towards his destination. The Raker walked back to his rake, picked it up, and began raking again.

I never saw either of the two men again.

There are a lot of things in this world that are used for inspiration, but I have had my own for the past 15 years: It is my encounter with The Blind Man and The Raker.

Every December I pause to ask myself two questions: (1) Have any of my worries this year surpassed the daily struggle of The Blind Man? (2) Have I done anything this year as compassionate as The Raker?

And I'm always thankful that I left early for school that day.

Barry Green is the District Attorney for the 271st Judicial District.

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