[tabi] Mack's Dining in the Dark Democrat article

  • From: Erica <ericamccaul@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: tabi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 7 Oct 2011 07:02:21 -0400 (EDT)

I thought Elizabeth did a wonderful job of giving thoughtful consideration to 
her experiences Sunday night.

Writer gets a taste of Dining in the Dark
11:58 PM, Oct. 5, 2011  
by Elizabeth Mack / Democrat

It's one thing to close your eyes to be in the dark and see nothing. Once you 
open them again, there's light and your sight has returned.
It's something else to close your eyes, open them and it's still dark.
It makes you think: What would you do if your entire world was like constantly 
walking around in a pitch-black room?
I got a small taste of that thanks to Lighthouse of the Big Bend and its annual 
Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark event — a fundraiser for the organization that 
also brings those with sight a deeper perspective on what it is like for those 
who are visually impaired.
When I had determined I wanted to go, I was excited. But on the day of the 
event, I realized more and more that the idea of not seeing anything and eating 
a three-course meal made me really nervous. Yet, the anticipation of seeing how 
the nonprofit pulls off the event each year drove my curiosity to go through 
with it.
The Lighthouse was gracious enough to offer a "dining in the dark" training 
before the dinner. I watched a volunteer from the audience, practicing with her 
eyes closed, season her food with pepper, believing it was salt.
After watching I decided that I would not be seasoning my food for the dinner.
Guests were escorted table by table to the University Center Club ballroom from 
the ground floor. As we rode to the ballroom level, it seemed as though 
everyone onboard the elevator had jitters.
And once the door of the elevator opened it was dark — but not completely. 
However, once I and the others were lined up, holding the shoulder of the 
person in front of us, we made our way to the ballroom, where it was absolutely 
It's hard to describe closing and opening your eyes, even squinting, and still 
seeing virtually nothing but maybe the faint glow from a watch. It's even 
harder describing the various feelings of not being able to see.
Through the meal, I felt uncomfortable. I had to constantly reach out and touch 
the hand of my guest to help me feel at ease.
Melinda Soto, account executive for national and major accounts for the 
Tallahassee Democrat, was also at the table. She described her experience as 
feeling isolated and disorientated.
"I've never felt more isolated," she said. "Everyone seemed so distant. But 
certainly my attention seemed better, making the conversations feel more 
It is said that when one sense is lost, another is heightened. However, I still 
don't know if that is true.
To me, sound was coming from everywhere, I was facing the wrong direction while 
listening to the speaker and I thought I was just eating steak, when it turned 
out I was also eating chicken.
It seemed the process of eating without sight required, for one, a lot of 
patience. But you have to be very involved.
I learned that after a few stabs with the fork, it was totally OK that I used 
my finger to spread butter on my roll and hands to scoop my salad onto my fork 
and eat my dessert.
"I'll let you in on a little secret," said Jada Michaels, keynote speaker at 
the event, who lost her sight 12 years ago due to a brain tumor. "If I come up 
empty after three stabs with the fork, I use my hands."
Through this experience, I can't say that being visually impaired is not 
something that I fear any less than before.
I remember when the dinner ended and the lights were turned on, I felt a sense 
of comfort in seeing again.
Eating without sight for just those couple of hours was such a struggle. It's 
something I would not like to do every day. But the reality is some people 
don't have a choice.
I left that evening having a new level of respect for those that are living in 
a world they can't see. I was in a controlled environment, but the world is not 
like that. And I believe those without sight are truly brave for conquering it 
each day.


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