In a blink of an eye everything I was used to seeing disappeared. My vision was taken away from me and in an instant all of the beauties of the world seemed to vanish. Recognizing a person by face was impossible, taking a sip of wine became a challenge and even eating without putting food on my face became exponentially harder. Though what I experienced was only temporary, and in fact planned, I could not help but shake the feeling that we often times take even the simplest things in life for granted. This past Wednesday night I attended the Fashion Ball: Dining in the Dark and I must say it was a night I won’t forget.
In its second year, the fashion ball is a fundraiser meant to bring awareness to degenerative blindness by forcing its guests to eat their entrées in complete darkness. The attendees are not told beforehand that the lights will be turned off or that their guidance for the evening will be from a blind wait staff. The concept, originally introduced by a blind clergyman named Jorge Spielmann from Zurich, has become embraced worldwide as an innovative experiment designed to increase empathy and awareness of what life for the blind is like. The event was held at the Plaza Hotel and was chaired by fashion executives Evan Mittman and Jill Granoff. Designer Andy Hilfiger was the guest speaker, and young blind musicians supported by Visionary Media provided the evening’s entertainment.
Let me start by saying that being blind for even 30 minutes was one of the scariest things I have ever done. Its hard to explain the sense of helplessness that comes over you when you realize that you cannot see even a hand 2 inches from your face. Luckily for me and the other guests, the waiters were incredible. Their knowledge of how to maneuver the space and to guide us throughout the night was exceptional. There were many moments where I truthfully forgot that they were blind. Even when the lights came on and they continued to pour wine with perfect form, it was hard to believe that they could not see. At no point did they spill a drop of wine or even break from perfect open handed service. It was amazing.
After the lights came back on and everyone laughed at the sight of their freshly food covered suits, we got the opportunity to hear some of their incredible stories. The night was capped off with live music performed by blind musicians and an exceptional desert – thankfully this one was with the lights back on. As I got home, I started to think of some of my favorite movies of people overcoming their disabilities to succeed. Here’s what I came up with:
Forrest Gump: One of the all time greats. Tom Hanks plays a not-so-bright southern boy who succeeds in just about everything he tries. He overcomes his walking disability, stars on a division 1 football team, becomes a war hero, a multi millionaire shrimp captain, and also gets the girl of his dreams. No matter how many times people called him stupid, he fought back and would always respond with the simple line, “Stupid is as stupid does.”
The Pursuit of Happyness: Will Smith plays an out of work out of luck salesman struggling to live with his son on the streets. Through determination and an exceptional mathematic mind however, he is able to overcome the odds and gets hired at a financial company. The story is rich with touching and incredible dialogue. I for one always tear up during the scene where he is forced to sleep with his son in the bathroom of a subway with one foot pressed on the door to keep people from breaking in.
A Beautiful Mind: Russell Crowe plays a brilliant math mathematician who is crippled by schizophrenia. After successfully battling his demons throughout college and his early work years, it all comes crashing down when his wife becomes suspicious of some of his violent and often unprovoked outbursts. The movie is inspiring and should be put on your Netflix list immediately if you have no seen it already.
Feel free to use the comments section below to tell us your inspiring stories of overcoming disabilities or to voice your opinion about the night I experienced.
A Beautiful Mind
At First Sight
The Pursuit of Happyness