The beauty around us often goes unnoticed. We see familiar sites every day and become apathetic to their color, shape, and movement. We’re so dismissive of these images that in essence, they literally disappear or remain in the outskirts of our minds. It becomes like a blindness where we lose our active vision for appreciating the common beauty of our environment. Consider the close-up of a raindrop, the summer sway of field grass, the clouds in a summer sky or the life-crafted smile lines of a stranger’s face.

In many ways, the same thing happens with the eyesores and blemishes on the landscape. Buildings in disrepair, public nuisances, broken windows, paint-peeling exteriors of local facilities, unsightly or litter-ridden areas. They are so common place that overtime, we simply excuse them from the landscape and ignore them. This sightlessness can become a danger for us all if we allow ourselves to become blind to the world around us.

What True Blindness Teaches

Just for a minute, imagine you are without sight; both the visual beauty and ugliness are gone. This is truly the case for the blind. There are no images or colors to rely on and their senses must take over. As these senses, touching, smelling, and hearing become heightened, they can better interpret the world around them.

The most iconic of blind Americans is Helen Keller who became famous during the early part of the 20th Century. Both deaf and blind, she overcame her handicaps and learned to communicate. She became an author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree and she was a prominent figure during World War II.

My older brother, Jim, served in the Navy during WWII. He was on the RMS Queen Mary (converted to a troop ship during the war) when it brought home 14,000 of the first returning troops. As one of the first soldiers off the ship, he stepped his feet on U.S. soil and was greeted and welcomed by Helen Keller.

Jim described the experience as she used her hands to “see” his face. She commented on how handsome he was and hugged him for his service! He never forgot that experience and the honor that she gave him through her sightlessness.

Imagine, both deaf and blind, yet she could see! We take our ability to see the world around us lightly. Let’s make better use of our vision to make the world a more beautiful place to live. Use that newfound sight to recognize unsightliness and then to clean up our homes, neighborhoods, and towns. Use it to appreciate and bring art into the community, to renovate and restore buildings and facilities and to encourage our youth to play an active role in the future of the community through community service.

As the seasons change and mother nature provides us with a full array of natural beauty across our landscape, pay attention to the ways you can affect what the world sees as it looks at Iowa.

Learn all they ways you can help in your community, State and with Keep Iowa Beautiful to more actively impact what people see!