Traverse City Record-Eagle


Seeing Clearly

By Micki Durocher DavisMy new coffee shop is in a small town where people merely give the last four digits when asked their phone number. If you ask someone their name, most only give their last name because the family name speaks for itself. Everybody knows everybody. As folks slowly discovered my shop, several people asked me if “Blind Jim” had stopped in yet. As an outsider in this town, I didn’t know who they meant because nobody had introduced themselves to me as such. And I hadn’t noticed anyone who appeared blind to me. The more times people asked me, the more insecure I started to feel that Blind Jim hadn’t graced my shop yet with his presence.

Finally one morning, about three months after my opening date, it happened. A regular guest of mine, Bob, walked in with another gentleman in tow. The newcomer held Bob’s shoulder and shuffled behind him while holding a stick. “Well, good morning!” I said with delight. “You must be Blind Jim. I’m so glad you finally made it in!”

Blind Jim will be 74 years old this week and was not born sightless. Unbeknownst to him, he lost sight in one eye as a young boy after jumping on a wagon, slipping on wet hay and having his head run over by the wheel of the tractor trailer. He spent his entire childhood viewing life with only one eye but didn’t even realize it. It wasn’t until he went to join the service at age 18 that his eyes were tested and it was proven he was completely blind in one eye. He couldn’t believe it.

Blind Jim went on to marry, have children and get a job with a manufacturing company downstate. It was here where he damaged his other eye while working with steel. Before the days of safety glasses, a piece of steel flew up into his eye and eventually caused him to be deemed legally blind. Before he lost sight, he had seen his wife and kids but has no idea what they look like now (30 some years later). I asked him if he can imagine what they might look like and he said, “No, not really.”

Can you picture this in your life? Having seen the colorful autumn leaves, looked into your child’s eyes, witnessed fireworks or even watched a polar bear on TV – then have it all taken away?! He told me now he sees people two ways: Beautiful or Ugly. If they are nice they are beautiful, if they are ornery they are ugly (for the record, he said I was beautiful)

Jim comes in every day now. Most mornings, a friend will pick him up to bring him in for coffee. But occasionally, he walks across a main highway to get to the shop. Alone … Without sight. Just him, his stick and a heaping pocketful of faith. Apparently he has been hit by cars but that doesn’t stop him because he likes to be independent. He says he uses the sound of the cars and trust in the Lord to guide him across. “God has been good to me” he says, “But if I go deaf, I’ll be in trouble!” I asked him what took him so long to start frequenting my shop and he said he wasn’t looking forward to crossing that road every day.

Every time I see Blind Jim, he’s smiling and upbeat. If a man can have his sight removed and still see the good in the world, what is wrong with some people who have joy in plain sight and still complain about their crappy life. I guess some people just can’t see at all.

  • Jackie Hlavka Johnson

    A great eye opener to many. Jim is a very nice man & have talked to him several times. God bless him.

  • Dave Belknap

    Great article Micki. Keep them coming! Your writing keeps me connected with my hometown.

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