It started in a curio shop when my fiancée, Deirdre, leaned across too near my face to reach for an item on the top shelf as I turned to say something to her. Her arm and my face came together at eye level, and my glasses flew off. They landed several feet away on a concrete floor. “Oh, sorry, Will,” Deirdre said, giggling.
We could see that one of the lenses was broken in several places. Deidre stopped giggling. I’d forgotten to bring my backup pair, and we were on vacation several time zones from home. And, I NEED those glasses. “Well there goes this vacation. It could be a week or longer before I can get new eyeglasses …. Wait! I can use the unbroken lens to see enough to get around. It’ll look funny, but maybe this trip isn’t ruined after all.”
Just then, a harried father chased a two-year-old around a corner into the aisle my glasses had crashed into. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I tried to yell, “STOP!” but the other lens was crushed by the father’s foot before I got half the word out. “Well, that’s it! Now I’m officially screwed!”
The owner of the shop saw what happened and rushed over to me. “Do you have a spare pair?”
I shook my head.
“Well, I think I have a pair that will work for you. I’ll be right back.” He shuffled into the back room and came out with a pair of glasses unlike any I’d seen before.
Thinking they must be nonprescription reading glasses, I held up my hand and said, “I’m sorry but those won’t work. I have poor vision in both eyes; I’m nearsighted; and reading glasses won’t help.”
He smiled patiently. “Please, try them on.”
I did, and to my amazement, I could see perfectly with both lenses—better in fact than I had been able to with my glasses before they broke.
“See? Give your eyes a little time to adjust to these lenses, and you’ll see better than you ever did.”
“What a lucky thing that you had glasses with lenses that worked perfectly for both my eyes. Incredible. I’m grateful to you. How much do I owe you?”
He smiled again with kind crinkling eyes, slanted his head slightly, and said, “No charge. They were meant for you. I only ask the same thing of you that the one who gave them to me asked of me: ‘When you no longer need them, give them to someone who does.’”
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. “Certainly! I’ll be happy to do that. Thank you for your kindness and generosity.”
He bowed his head slightly forward and to the side and said, “Enjoy the rest of your day and your lives.”
Deirdre and I thought that was an odd thing to say, and for that matter, he was an odd little man, but we were glad to have met him.
We continued our vacation and were having fun, but something else happened that was quite odd. The longer I wore the glasses, the better I could see people. Not just their exterior features; it was as though, when I looked into someone’s eyes, I could see into their heart.
It got to the point where I could tell whether I’d be treated kindly by a stranger or whether a taxi driver planned to overcharge us by taking the long route to our destination. I couldn’t read their minds, just their hearts; but, seeing the latter gave me great insight as to what their actions would be.
I didn’t mention this to Deirdre. I didn’t want her thinking I was going crazy. But, after a couple of days, I couldn’t hold back any longer. She, of course, didn’t believe me, so we played a game where I’d predict the way someone would treat us or how they would act. Then, we observed what actually happened. When they were gone, we discussed the whole thing. I was right over and over again just by seeing into their hearts.
She was a hard sell, but after a couple more days, Deirdre believed I really could see into the heart of people. Then, yet another strange thing happened. At first, I thought I was imagining it but quickly realized it wasn’t my imagination. Deirdre had stopped looking into my eyes. I tried various things to get her to look directly at me, but she wouldn’t.
Finally, frustrated, I blurted out, “Why won’t you look at me anymore?”
“You’re imagining things! Of course, I look at you.” But, even then, it was barely a sideways glance.
“Please! LOOK AT ME!”
She turned and stared straight into my eyes. I knew immediately why she had avoided it. Her eyes told me her heart’s secret. It only took a heartbeat to rip mine out of my chest and crush it under the staggering weight of truth. She was in love with someone else. I closed my eyes and shook my head. “NO! It can’t be.” But, her expression removed all doubt.
We ended our vacation early. There was little need for discussion. I knew all I needed to know with that one look in her eyes. We had no future together, and there was no reason to prolong our goodbye.
When I got home, I told my friends and family the wedding was canceled. Whenever I didn’t have to go to work, I hid in my apartment to attempt to heal a heart that seemed far beyond repair. I hated the day I put on those glasses but was eternally grateful I’d worn them. I needed to learn the truth, but it felt like, instead of setting me free, it was killing me.
One day, I realized it had been a long time since I’d looked into my own eyes. It was with some trepidation that I looked in the mirror. I was pleasantly surprised I liked what I saw. Mostly. I immediately put more focus on being kinder.
About a month later, I answered a knock on the door. It was someone I recognized as a new neighbor whom I’d seen a few times in the parking lot and on the walkway.
“Hi, I’m Grace. I moved in next door while you were gone. Mrs. Roberts mentioned you weren’t feeling well so I thought I’d make some homemade chicken soup. It’s guaranteed to help make you feel better.”
“Thank you, Grace.” I looked into her eyes and loved what I saw. I knew then my heart would heal. “Please come in.”