A Birthday Party and Blindness at Whole Foods (Part 1 of 2)

29 06 2012

This past Monday was one of my favorite evenings of 2012.

I joined friends at The Birthday Wagon, an Austin-based non-profit that provides free birthday parties for kids in the shelter system.  Dao, Monica, Bill, Charlie and I took a couple of hours to bring joy and enthusiasm to women and families in the system and entertained the crowd with an acroyoga performance.

I then energetically recruited a bunch of the kids and teens and moms (!) to fly with us and the mood in the room was seriously elevated.

Honorary Clowns - Smiling Behind Our Masks :-)

Honorary Clowns – Smiling Behind Our Masks 🙂

The organizers were grateful that we volunteered, our crew was rewarded with juice and frosted cupcakes, and I swear that – despite the rave reviews – I had more fun than any of the participants.  (I love birthday parties!)  I hope to volunteer with them again when back in Austin.

Following the party, my crew headed to Whole Foods for some nourishment and to attempt a social experiment: moments with blindness.

Each of us took a turn closing our eyes while one of our friends led us around the store with a hand on our shoulder.  Each “guide” directed a participant through the many aisles of the large Whole Foods flagship store and all sorts of encounters ensued.

Setting up the Party - Balloons, Streamers and Decorations

Setting up the Party – Balloons, Streamers and Decorations

First, I directed Dao through the checkout line.  I coached him and guided his hands:

“We are turning left and are taking five steps forward.  We are at the counter.  Let’s give your dinner to the cashier and get your credit card out.”

Most interesting to me was the cashier’s reaction.  Upon seeing that Dao was “blind”, she began speaking slower, louder and in much friendlier tones.  She was not at all unkind, but her tone somewhat resembled conversations with the very young or very old.

Dao visualized what the cashier looked like and then shared this image with her.  His description was totally off, but it gave me an opportunity to accurately and positively describe this beautiful woman to Dao.  The woman was flattered and it was a fun challenge for me to be tasked with describing her on the spot.

Part 2 of the post is much cooler!  Check out:  A Birthday Party and Blindness at Whole Foods (Part 2 of 2).

posted by ayo

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