Posted in A Moment in My Life

“The Man with the Red Tip Cane”

A Moment in My Life – Wednesday, January 27, 2021

It’s not something you see every day, so it made me do a doubletake. I see walkers on the sidewalk along Orange Memorial Park regularly, but the walkers look, with some variations, all the same. This one particular walker was far from the same. Something about him lured me up to the windowsill of my stairwell landing on tippy toes to get a better view. It took me a second to assess what was curious about this walker, and there it was—the long red tip stick in front of this middle-aged man, walking alone. I stood taller on my tippy-toes, bringing my face closer to the window to peer down the street, both ways—nobody else in sight. What the heck was a vision-impaired man doing walking outside by himself? With a hand shielding the sun’s glare, I watched this man—intrigued—with every step and every tap of his cane on the concrete beneath his feet. 

If not for the red-tip cane, I wouldn’t have suspected his challenge. At a glance, he had a normal gait. In my fixation, I observed the man taking slow, heavy, yet precise steps, carefully planting his footing on the ground while maintaining his dignity. His head moved with each step as he has some vision through his gold-rimmed glasses. I stretched as much as possible to catch the last glimpse of this man that awed me with his independence.  

The memory of this stranger imprinted itself on my mind with more and more fascination and curiosity. Who was he? Where did he come from? Does he live nearby? Why was he out alone? Does he have someone in his life? Was he walking alone by choice or necessity? I probably would never see him again. I can only imagine the answers to my questions. I guess he has loved ones, but he is a proud man who appreciates his independence and doesn’t want to bother anyone. If not that, I imagine him stepping out of his comfort zone to tackle his fears, starting with overcoming this challenge’s limitations.

Regardless of this man’s story, he got me thinking about myself and other people without handicaps. Too often, it doesn’t take much to prevent me from going outside walking alone. I used to wait for my late husband, Mark, to come home from work to go walking together because I didn’t want to go alone. Other times, I was the queen of excuses. It’s too late, too cold, too windy, too hot, or I’m too tired. The list goes on and on. I’m sure this man would welcome any or all of my excuses over his challenge. 

I know many people who rely on family members or friends to take them places or help them do things, and I understand that it’s okay to ask for help. That’s a lesson that I’m still acclimating to, but I am referring to other tasks that folks can do for themselves but don’t. Most of the time, it’s for spurious excuses like I had about walking. The old saying, “You don’t use it, you lose it,” is profoundly true. The longer we dodge something, the harder it will be. I’ve learned being self-sufficient is preferable to relying on others. If say, I can achieve the task myself, but someone offers a helping hand out of kindness, then that is a blessing. Otherwise, it’s imperative to our independence to step out of our comfort zone to do some things ourselves. Even without a challenge hindering me, I look into the future and fear losing my ability to do something. This fear keeps me trying because practice makes perfect for maintaining my independence, just like the man with the red tip cane.

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