The Human Library took place yesterday at the War Museum and five branches of the Ottawa Public Library. There were sixty “human books” which people could borrow for one-on-one 20-minute conversations.
- CBC radio personalities
- OC Transpo bus driver
- Muslim woman
- Sex worker
- Peking Opera performer
- Children’s Aid worker
- Person with bi-polar disorder
- Police Officer
- Refugee from Haiti
- Urban Inuk
- Defense lawyer
- Transgender woman
- War artist
I borrowed a blind octogenarian and GC borrowed a recovering addict.
Theresa is 82 and has been completely blind for 22 years as a result of acute glaucoma.
She insists that if she were offered her vision back today, she would not take it. She says rather than feeling bad about what you’ve lost, you just have to make the most of what you’ve got. So many good things have come into her life as a result of being blind. For example, she wouldn’t be of much interest as a human book if she were just a plain old octogenarian. She’s now a frequent motivational speaker at schools, and has been interviewed on TV and radio. She gets to go skiing, snow-shoeing and tandem bike riding with the help of volunteers. She never did any of these things while she was sighted.
She says that this is the best time in history to be blind, because of all the technology, and she demonstrated her Daisy Reader to me. It reads to her while she cooks. She says even if she got her sight back, she’d keep her Daisy Reader.
She has a blind dog, too. Her name is Missy Poo; she was a breeder at a puppy mill. I asked her if she takes her dog for walks (a clear case of the blind leading the blind) and she said no.
Theresa loves her life just the way it is. She lives independently in her own house, is active and busy, and has a son and many volunteers who help her with anything she can’t do herself. She believes in being happy, and believes happiness is just a matter of attitude.
I asked her how she felt when she was told she was going blind, and she said she shed a few tears, but it was because the doctor told her she’d have to give up driving immediately, and she loved her 3-year-old Chevy Impala. But, within minutes of hearing the grim news, she decided to make the most of her life as a blind person.
I enjoyed my conversation with Theresa, and was amused by how many positivity cliches she was able to squeeze into twenty minutes. Things like “The past is history, the future’s a mystery, but today is a gift – that’s why they call it the present!” and “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise,” and “When one door closes, another one opens.”
On the feedback form they asked for suggestions for next year’s program. I couldn’t think of much on the spur of the moment, but I’ve been asking myself that question ever since.
If you could have a conversation with anyone in the world, who would it be?