I was taken aback one day while eating at a large potluck. A man sitting next to me asked, “How much can you see?”

“I can’t see anything,” I told him.

“But you have to be able to see,” he responded, “you are feeding yourself.”

I was tempted to ask, “Can’t you feed yourself when in a dark room? Haven’t you ever eaten popcorn or other snacks while watching some movie in the dark?” But I resisted this remark and continued actually feeding myself.

Picture this scenario: Finding your chair beside the large, heavily loaded table, you take a quick glance around the room at your friends before settling down for what you know will be a grand feast. The aromas floating up from the food — a mixture of spices, sweetness and savory dishes — are tantalizing, causing your salivary glands to engage. Several large casserole dishes are too large to pass around the table — you hold your plate out for another to serve you. Slightly smaller dishes of vegetables, breads and salads find their way, as if by magic, around the table. You help yourself to these foods and send them on to the next person waiting.

You have your fork grasped firmly in your hand, ready to stab some delicious food that is just begging to be eaten ... when suddenly the room goes black.

Confusion reigns as people stare into the blackness. With the fork in your hand, it is now time for you to eat. What are you waiting for? Are you a little concerned because the lights are out? Or are you afraid you might have to leave this delicious meal and help fix the problem? You hear a jumble of whispers as others ask, “What happened?”

Then you hear your host speak — his voice suggesting he is struggling to not burst forth into peals of laughter.

“Folks, this is a minor situation. It has happened before — just go ahead and eat your food and I’ll go fix the problem. You are in no danger, so enjoy your food. The lights will be back on shortly.”

Are you concerned about what caused the blackout? Or are you more worried because you can’t see your plate filled with tempting food? But remember, you know what food you have on your plate. It’s not as if someone else has filled your plate with what they thought you wanted. And be assured, you will still be able to find your mouth.

You dip down and take a bite of food, not knowing what it is until it enters your mouth, when suddenly the room is again ablaze with glowing lights. In astonishment you stare first at your food, then, looking up, at the grinning host — and you understand what had caused the blackout. There had not been a power failure, just a host playing a prank on his dinner guests.

Consider what would happen if, because of an accident or some eye disease, the world rapidly turned black. This new dark abyss can be very difficult to pull yourself out of, and just the thought of sitting around a table with many other people, whether they are friends or strangers, can be frightening.

The newly blinded person finds others serving him or her, and a feeling of helplessness descends over them. It may be hard for this blind person to once again really be comfortable dining out with friends. The fear of making a mess is real, so they are extra careful. But given time and experience, these people will soon feel almost at home in a crowded dining room.

It is not always easy to allow others to serve you. In a way you are giving up some of your independence by having a helper fill your plate with what they think you might want. As you start to eat, you really don’t know what you have on your plate, especially as foods mix with other foods; Delicious Jell-O salad begins to melt as the hot roast placed against it warms the Jell-O, causing little rivulets of sweetness to slip under the roast, potatoes or other vegetables.

These days, I usually refuse the Jell-O salad, not because I don’t like it but because I don’t like it mixing in with all the other foods. Usually each bite placed in my mouth is a mixture of at least two different foods. But as we blind know, it is not hard to get the fork or spoon to one’s mouth.

Why not give it a try? — enjoy your meal with lights out. You might be surprised at how easy it is.

Have a great day.

Ernie Jones, a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss, can be reached at 529-9252 or eajsr37@outlook.com.

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