My son doesn't see well. In fact, he's legally blind, although he does get by, and lots of folks don't notice. But if I had a nickel for everyone who suggested that he needs glasses, I'd have a nice little nest egg. Sometimes simple accommodations like holding things close do the trick, but sometimes they don't. One summer he ran into the same parking meter three different times.
I started to think it might be time for a white cane.
Where to start? The overpriced and less-than-helpful low-vision specialist? The ophthalmologist with the five-month wait for an appointment? His former mobility instructor from preschool? I went online, and there, the second listing I found was "Free White Cane — National Federation of the Blind."
Reader, I clicked.
And there was a straightforward statement about the usefulness of canes and a link to an order form for a free one. I also found a downloadable book called Care and Feeding of the Long White Cane, which suggested that if you learned to walk in the first place, then with a little explanation and practice, you can probably figure out how to add a cane to the mix.
He got a cane. No fuss, no appointments, no meetings, no evaluations — just a cane. And we figured it out together, and now he decides when he needs to use it, which is not quite as often as I think he should — but then it isn't my vision, is it?
A few years later he got some professional instruction. The teacher offered him some options as to type of cane, but said that on the whole, he did fine. Not a surprise.
Then I found out that we'd done something controversial. There are those who believe that using a cane is a skill that only professionals can teach. And that kids need pricier canes. But I'm a fan of the simple cane and the simple notion that the people who need a cane can use one without any fuss.
That made me wonder: Are there other things that theological educators sell and regulate and render mysterious for the sake of our own prestige, income, or self-justification?
Don't get me wrong. I'm the proud product of a traditional seminary program, and a proponent of the same. I treasure the time I spent at the feet of brilliant teachers and my many hours in the library. I remember with profound gratitude the time and space set apart from the ordinary.
But just as I like the simplicity of putting a white cane in the hands of everyone who needs one,I'm also a fan of getting the tools for learning and growing in faith in the hands of everyone, without too much fuss.
Some years ago, I trekked to Biblical Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, to attend one of their regular breakfasts. They were free, open to the community, major friend-raisers for the school, and a chance for people to hear great teaching. The speaker that day was a favorite of the crowd, an elder professor who mixed wisdom and humility, solid scholarship and practical application with extraordinary grace. There were seminarians there, but also bankers, farmers, and home-schooling moms, all profoundly grateful for the intellectual input.
That's one example of a simple, no-fuss way to put the tools of theological education into the hands of everyone. Is your school doing something creative too? Let us know at email@example.com.