A GIFT FROM MY DISABILITY — THE SIXTH LOVE LANGUAGE

Christmas is now less than two weeks away, and I’m as excited as anyone. But as the chaos of the holiday descends, I’m struck by the odd sense that we are doing it wrong.

“All I Want for Christmas is You” is blaring on shopping mall speakers, advertisements for the latest gadgets are on screens everywhere we turn, and the world is inundated with unabashed consumerism. And with our collective obsession of finding the “perfect gift” for that special someone, have we ever stopped to ask what kind of gift they would appreciate most?

There are five primary love languages: quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch and receiving gifts. I am a words of affirmation gal myself, but I’ve come to recognize that my blindness has paved the way for a sixth–braille.

On my refrigerator, there is a photo that takes center stage. It’s of my best friend’s baby girl, taken in the NICU where they stayed for five months. On the bottom of the photo, there is an inscription that reads: “Hand made by God” with her name, weight and date of birth beneath. But what touches me most about this picture is that the inscription is written in braille. Now, when I trail my fingers across those words–the ones my best friend took the time to write in braille and by hand so that I could read it–I am overcome with gratitude.

My love affair with braille began when I became totally blind at the age of six, and it has only deepened. These six dots don’t merely represent a system through which I can communicate by touch. It’s a way of life, of thinking, learning and being.

I never realized how central braille is to my world until I began verbalizing my innermost thoughts to my husband. What I thought was “normal” and “commonplace,” he gravitates to with such fascination that it’s almost unnerving. When I describe the braille word games I play in my mind as I fall asleep, or how letters and numbers are associated with different colours, [called synesthesia], or that I design braille art which I hope to one day bring to life on the page, I’m reminded of how braille is not just a method of reading and writing. For me, it’s part of who I am. It’s my independence, my freedom, my creativity. And if you don’t think there’s creativity in six little dots, check out these instructions for making braille drawings and think again!

In the act of Christmas shopping and trying to find the perfect gift or the best deal, we’ve forgotten that there are other ways of giving and receiving love. And they may not be on the top five. I doubt that braille is on your list of love languages, but to me, it’s the one that touches my heart in a way none other can. Because through a braille greeting card or note, book or letter, I feel seen. I feel understood. Through taking the time to write in braille, you are telling me that I am worth it, that my disability is a valued part of who I am, and that you value all of me enough to show me love in the way that I will never forget.

This Christmas season, take a moment to ask your family and friends how they like to be shown love. You might be surprised by the answer! But what matters most is that you took the time to learn about the people you care about most. It’s time well-spent!

What’s your love language? Do you have one that isn’t one of the five? Let me know in the comments.