“One good thing that came out of the pandemic? Secret Santa got canceled!” said Lisa Brown. But to her dismay, this year her office promised a bigger and better in-person holiday party to make up for last year. And, of course, what Brown dreaded the most: the annual Secret Santa exchange.
“I used to get awesome gifts: handknit scarves in my favorite colors, spices ‘cos I love cooking and even homemade desserts,” said Brown. “But that was pre-diagnosis! After I learned I had a visual impairment and told my colleagues, everything changed! Now when they see me they only think of me as blind girl and every year I get Braille books!”
George Anderson, Brown’s colleague, did consider other gifts when he drew her name for Secret Santa one year. “I Googled ‘blind movies and musicians’ so I thought maybe a Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles CD or maybe the Daredevil movie,” said Anderson. “Disabled people are really difficult to buy gifts for!” Eventually, Anderson settled for a Braille version of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” because disabled people probably need some sort of self-help and inspiration.
Felicia Hart, another colleague, agreed. “I mean, what do you get a blind person? It’s not like they can see anything!” she said. “I’m pretty sure blind people don’t appreciate food or pretty things like the rest of us. They’re just a different bunch.” After much thinking, Hart got Brown a Braille version of “365 Days of Inspiration” because everyone knows disabled people get depressed and s**t, and there’s nothing like a daily uplift to nag them to live purposeful lives.
Brown doesn’t want to be rude (after all, it is Christmas), so she just donates the books to the neighborhood Little Free Library every year. “I don’t read Braille — only less than 10% of the legally blind population do. Hopefully, someone finds the books useful,” she said. “Also, blindness is a spectrum. I’ve lost my peripheral vision but can see centrally. And I still appreciate sounds, colors, smells, taste! Damn it, just one year I’d like to get lavender bath salts, a picture frame or pumpkin scented candles … You know, those gifts other people get but hate.”
This year, Stephanie Lee picked Brown’s name from the Secret Santa bowl. “Oh! I got Lisa, the blind girl in the comms department!” thought Lee. Knowing instantaneously she was going to get Brown a unique but considerate gift, Lee Googled, “Best Braille motivational self-help books.”