Thursday, February 6, 2014

It Matters Where You Look: A Guest Post by Amy Bovaird

Amy Bovaird, a specialist in second language acquisition, taught overseas from Latin America to the Middle and Far East. Now she lectures and writes about her experiences. She is currently writing her memoir. Because Amy suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive eye disorder resulting in blindness, she’s now traded her overseas adventures for those with her cane. You can find her humorous, uplifting stories at:

Here is an excerpt from Amy's book, "Mobility Matters! Stepping Out in Faith." coming out in Spring 2014.

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; … lift up my head.
--Psalm 3:3. NIV

“Stand up straight! Use your eyes to see what is around you. Let your cane see the ground. That’s why you have it.”

I bristle at my mobility instructor, Ruth’s, words.

I try to let my cane find the sidewalk, freeing me up to observe other cues in my environment.

“You’re doing it again. Why are you looking at the ground?”

“Hmmm.” I sigh, correcting my posture. It feels awkward and unnatural.

I’ve walked bent over for years without being aware of it. Before I ever picked up a red-and-white cane, I looked down so I wouldn’t fall in a hole, or splash through a mud puddle.  As an English language teacher traveling between buildings at our training base in San Antonio, I strode in a brisk, determined manner. Students misinterpreted.

“Slow down!”

“Never you look up, teacher!”

“Go, get ‘em!”

As Ruth continues to draw my attention to the posture I use with my cane, the more hopeless I feel.

Nonnative speakers fossilize in using wrong grammar patterns or pronunciation. If they want to become better communicators, they have to break those habits and form new ones. If I want better and safer mobility, I, too, must break old habits.  

I motivate myself by imagining a change of environment. I’m not walking down an uneven sidewalk on a cold, rainy day. Instead, I glide down a smooth runway in a beauty pageant.  I bestow my brightest smile to all my well-wishers.

“Much better! That’s right. What do you see now?” my instructor calls out.

“Houses. There’s a car coming up beside me on the road.”

Later, Ruth blows her nose and sluices the rain away from her face. “You know, posture affects your heart and all kinds of internal organs. We don’t want to risk that.”

I replay the beauty pageant theme, smiling, as we make our way down a busy street. This isn't all that bad!

“You’re doing much better.”

Finally, we head home.

The lesson I learn today—it matters where I look. I’m going to let my cane see for my feet, and find the obstacles in my path. Meanwhile, I’m going to focus on the world around me.

God flashes a smile at me.

I give him a perfect, queenly wave in return. I’ll be a serious contender for this pageant I’ve entered into here on earth.

Already I feel my spirits lifting.


  1. Hi Amy and Rachel! What a journey... I love the idea in your head of a beauty pageant. And how you responded to that great image. Right down to the 'queenly wave' to The Lord. I can't imagine the difference in observing the world. I know I look down a lot too. It's not that I am afraid of potholes, I'm just thinking.
    But what am I missing looking straight down?

    You can 'look up' and let your cane find the pitfalls. Such a great inspiration to me. You keep seeing those smiles from God. I think he's so proud of you. I know I am! Thank you for guest blogging today. I'll have to come over to your place sometime :)

  2. I, too, look down all the time. I even do it when speaking to students. Eye contact intimidates me for some reason. If I look down, I don't have to let others see in.

    Your outlook here, is inspiring! You most definitely are a contender in this pageant!

  3. I immediately visualized someone who I worked with years ago, who is now blind from a couple of strokes. He explained to me that hearing had become so important in his life, as did the feel of the cane tip. The cane almost becomes a second pair of eyes. I don't think I understood exactly what he was talking about until I read this post. I love the beauty pageant analogy.

  4. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comments, everyone. I hope you were inspired by Amy's story as much as I am. I hope you all have a blessed day.
    ~ Rachel

  5. Rachel, Thanks so much for hosting me!
    I was so touched by all your comments. Cell, you made me feel so wonderful with your encouragement, and please do check out my site. Jessie, (Anon) Glad also that it was a good read! Carrie, sometimes we all need to change our perspective, don't we? God is the great equalizer. Bookworm, what your friend said about the cane being like a second pair of eyes is so true! I'm discovering that even though I've only used one for a few years. =)