There are no mail carriers that deliver mail to individual houses here in Cochabamba. Instead, there is one central post office and you have to go there to pick up your mail. The post office is in the downtown area of the city and is only one block from the main city plaza, which is commonly called la plaza principal. (I don’t remember its official name.) As you can imagine, this is a very busy part of town.
When I go to the post office, I usually take a trufi, which is a numbered car or van that runs the same route through the city, or between cities, every day. I have to walk four blocks to get to the corner of the intersecting avenues of Libertador and America and wait for the correct trufi to come by, which would be the 101 or the 103. Both eventually pass by the post office. The cost to get there in Bolivianos is 1.70 per person and the same to come back home. (The Boliviano is the name of the currency in Bolivia.) That 1.70 comes out to about $0.25 cents in US dollars.
I know, I know, you are wondering if I will ever get to the point of this story. Well, here it is. About three or four months ago, I jumped in Trufe 101 and headed toward the post office. I needed to check the mail and send off several letters to the States. It was around five in the evening so that area of town was fairly busy. The driver approached the intersection where I was going to get off, but the traffic light changed to red. There were three or four cars between us and the traffic light. Since the light was red, I paid my fair and climbed out of the trufi.
I walked toward the street corner and was about to cross when the traffic light turned green, forcing me to wait. I stood there watching the cars pass by, listening to the roar of the buses and other vehicles and inhaling clouds of smog and smoke. The voices of people walking around me swirled in the air mixing with the pollution. Some adults talked of family issues and work. The school kids laughed and joked with each other while eating various kinds of afternoon snacks. Business men and women were rushing from one office to another or maybe trying to get home.
Suddenly, through the muddled voices, the rumbling of engines and squealing brakes, a faint voice pricked my ear. It was a male voice calmly repeating, “Excuse me,” in Spanish. Whatever I had been thinking about fled from my mind and I began to look around trying to pinpoint the voice. I finally looked to my left and saw a man who was neatly dressed standing about five feet from the curb. He wore black slacks and a sports coat. His eyes were obscured by large, dark shades and he sported a brown fedora. His left hand firmly gripped a worn leather handbag and his right hand held a thin, white cane. He kept repeating the word, “Discúlpeme,” as people passed by him with most never paying attention to his recurring statement.
After a few seconds of observing him and debating within myself what to do, I walked over and asked if he needed help. He said he did, but when he responded to me, he never looked at me. I mean, not that it would have done any good. After all, he was blind. He told me that he needed to get on Bus B to get home and asked me if I would help him. I told him I would and that I would wait with him until the right bus came. I ended up waiting with him for almost 10 minutes. I tried to make small talk with him, but I guess he wasn’t feeling it. I remember I asked him where he lived in the city and he simply responded that Bus B passed by where he lived. I guess he was paranoid that I would try to follow him.
Finally I saw the right bus lurching up the avenue. It was about two blocks away when I told him that Bus B was approaching. He questioned me probably four or five times if it was, in fact, the correct bus. I assured him repeatedly that it was. I flagged it down and after it stopped, I escorted him to the open door. He climbed aboard and I stepped back on the sidewalk. Bus B drove away belching black smoke as it rumbled down the avenue headed for its next stop. I waited for the traffic light to change from green to red and then I crossed the street and made my way to the post office.
That brief encounter left me thinking for the rest of the evening and obviously I am still thinking about it. I suppose that in the process of living, all of us have become blinded from time to time. No, I don’t mean blinded in a physical sense. Rather we can become blinded emotionally, psychologically or spiritually. Or God forbid, all three occur. We don’t notice the direction that our life is going or that it has changed for the worse. Somewhere along the way, we may have taken a wrong turn or wander away from the light. Maybe we have drifted off course, losing sight of our destination due to a series of unfortunate “storms” that we barely survived.
Others may recognize our loss of vision, but we don’t, well, see it. For example, perhaps the woman is blinded to how abusive the relationship has grown over the past few months or years. Maybe that man doesn’t realize that the recreational use has grown into an addictive vice. Someone may be blinded to how damaging their latest decisions have been to those around them. They can no longer spot the warning signs of impending disaster. In some strange way, the bigger picture of their life, our life, is no longer in view. The proverbial trees prevent us from viewing the whole forest. We lose our perspective.
Our outlook grows dim and clouded over time. Instead of being on a precipice scanning the panorama of our wonderful life, it feels like we are in a dark, damp cave blindly groping and fumbling our way through. Chances are it doesn’t feel like a cave at the moment. It may just feel a little hazy and shadowy. However, looking back at those times, we understand how dark they really were. If we were to be honest with ourselves, we all have those moments in our past that we revisit from time to time and say quietly, “How did I ever get there? Why in the world did I do that? What was I thinking back then?”
How we got to such an abysmal place may have been a shocking fall or a slow winding decent, but thankfully the scales eventually fell from our eyes and we climbed and clawed our way out of the hog pen, cave, or bad relationship. Per chance one day we woke up and listened to someone who had identified our impaired vision and noticed our carelessness and recklessness. If no one pointed it out to us, then I hope, like that blind man on the street corner, we were able to muster the will power to ask for help. (Excuse me, I need some assistance. I’ve lost my way.) Some may have ignored us. Others were too busy to stop. A few probably mocked us, but fortunately someone stepped forward and guided us in the right direction again.
Jesus talked about a prodigal son during one of his parables in Luke 15. As that young man reached the lowest point in his life, the Bible says that he “came to himself.” A brief moment of clarity allowed the lost son to see himself as he really was. He grasped, maybe for the first time in months, just how far he had fallen and how dreadful and disgusting his life had become. Yet at last, he could see clearly and think logically once again. As rationality and sanity returned to his mind, he made the proper decision to go back to his father’s house and enjoyed the rest of his life. Yes, you can enjoy life again after regaining your vision.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome that blindness, in part had happened to Israel. It doesn’t take complete blindness to make us lose our way; just a partial blindness is enough to get us lost. It is sad and true that most of us have all been there at some point in our life. We were staggering, stumbling and blundering through a series of bad ideas and terrible choices, blinded and hindered by our own self-will or some other flaw in our character. Thankfully, lucidity, reason and sound judgment (and probably a bit of God’s grace) returned and we were able to make the right decisions in order to get back on the appropriate road.
I am sure that the majority of us could echo the sentiment of that unnamed fellow from the Bible. “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25 NKJV).