Sebastian was about eighteen when I first met him more than a decade ago. Blind since birth, he had attended a weekend recreation program I helped publicize to the media.
A likeable young man with a dry sense of humor, Sebastian liked to poke fun at his blindness. He’d ask me questions like this: “What do you call a blind rabbit sitting on your face?” When I told him I didn’t know, he’d crack, “An unsightly facial hare.” I think it was his smug grins more than the jokes that brightened my days.
He had a habit of ending many of his comments with the tag, “God willing.” He told me that faith meant a lot to him and that there was a reason for his world without sight.
One of Sebastian’s passions was goalball, a game played with a bell ball on a gymnasium floor. The object of the game is for one team to roll the ball across the opponent’s goal line while the other team attempts to block it.
Sebastian was a master of the game, especially when he was on defense. I can still see the intensity on his face, the way he listened for the oncoming ball, and the way he’d swat it away.
One time, I arrived very early for a goalball tournament to take pictures for a newsletter story. The gymnasium was quite still as a I was setting up my tripod. Then – the familiar sound of a white cane tapping the floor on the opposite side of the gym near the bleachers.
It was Sebastian. I watched him carefully climb the bleachers as high as he could go. He felt the walls and windows, and tried to touch the ceiling with his cane. He proceeded to walk the perimeter of the gym, searching with his cane for doors, chairs – anything, as I later learned, that would give him a feel for his surroundings. Finally, he got down on his knees and swept the floor with his hands feeling for warped boards and dings in the wood.
When he finished, I asked him about his exploration. “It’s good to know ahead of time where the surface cracks are,” he said. “They can make the difference in a game.”
“What about the bleachers and walls around the gym?” I asked.
“Knowing where they are helps me to know where I am and where I might need to go should something happen,” he explained. “It’s a path for me to get there, God willing.”
When I think of Sebastian, I always see him that day probing his environment. Indirectly, he taught me the importance of probing my faith – to know where I am with it, where the cracks are and where I might need to go.
And with a little luck, I’ll find a path to get there… God willing.