The Colors of a Cane

Bring Forth Hope


A short cane, similar to Joe's except his had three prongs on the bottom for support.
A short cane, similar to Joe’s except his had a hand rest and 3 prongs on the bottom for support.

35-Day Author Blog Challenge- Day 31, Ultra / Ultimate Blog Challenge

The man moved with relative ease and speed. He sat somewhere in the middle of the first row. Of medium-height and wearing unremarkable clothing, the biggest thing that stood out to me was the wide grin on his face.

The physical training coach at Springhill–also in charge of introducing me for my talk at the senior center–called the man–Joe–over.

The trainer turned to me and explained,  “Joe’s ninety-five and more fit than me, right, Joe?”

The resident was obviously one of his favorites.

While we waited for the other participants to find their seats, Joe tapped his way to the front of the room where I was setting up. My talk would begin shortly.

Now that he was directly opposite me, I could see that skin was wrinkled, his hair thinning but the man’s expression exuded youth and enthusiasm.

Facing me, Joe raised his cane in a friendly way. “Do you know what this red line means?” He ran a hand up and down the lower part of his cane, leaning forward, eager for my response.

“Why don’t you tell me,” I said, not wanting to take away his thunder.

“Eh? Can’t hear ya too well.”

I repeated myself, a little slower and a little more loudly.


The physical trainer said, “Here it comes!”

“Now you see here, this red line on my cane means I’m vision-impaired.”  He looked expectantly not at me exactly, but over my shoulder.  In my direction. Joe’s voice was warm, happy. It had that, I-can-relate-to-you tone.  He continued. “I had a chance to get a bi-i-i-g long cane. But I needed something stable. They found me this shorter cane so I can lean on it. You know how that goes.”

He leaned on it to show me exactly how that went.

“I can’t tell you how many people don’t know what that red color means. Son of a gun!” He shook his head. “I have to tell ’em ev’ry time.”  

I couldn’t mistake the gleeful tone in his voice.

“What does an all-white cane indicate?”


“She asked … if you knew … what an all white cane … meant?” the trainer repeated in simpler words.

“Ahhhh–that means that a person cannot see at all.” He frowned sadly.

“Right. But you have some sight,” I said, “’cause you have some red in your cane.”

Joe gave me one nod.”Darn tootin’ I do.”

We chatted for a bit then Joe made his way back to his seat.

“Careful, careful.” The trainer set out to help a woman maneuver her wheeled walker around a corner and get situated in her seat. I liked this man. He seemed to genuinely care about the residents.

He came back. “You ready?”

I nodded.

I had a built-in visual aid with my cane. So I propped it up and shared the little I knew about it. I wasn’t certain but I had heard in my vision support group that an all-white cane meant that individual was blind. So I shared that.

Red means vision-impaired.
Red means vision-impaired. To Joe, it mean “partially sighted.”

“But you see this color on my cane? Do you know what that means? I am visually impaired. A person with this kind of cane can be legally blind. I’m much more so than that. You can also say that I have partial sight. Or a little bit of sight. A small range of sight.”

Someone called out, “How much sight do you have?”

“My side vision? Ohh, about five degrees.”

I though for a moment. “Can you find anyone else in the room that is vision-impaired?” 

Everyone looked around at each other.

Joe’s wife whispered something to him. She pointed to me, and nodded toward his cane. She bent toward him again and spoke quietly. That huge grin came over his face for the second time since I met him. Even I couldn’t mistake the expression on his face with my blurry vision. He held his cane out and gave it a little shake before tapping the red color several times.

It was my turn to be awed.  Coping with hearing and vision loss … ninety-five and to have that kind of exuberance!

My future suddenly seemed full of hope.

I went to Springhill to share my optimism but I grabbed onto Joe’s. God has a way of shining light into dark places.

Can you think of a time when you’ve doubted or feared your future in some way but met someone that filled you with hope? Share it in the comments below! 

You have just read “The Colors of a Cane” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright October 13, 2015.

The Colors of a Cane
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4 thoughts on “The Colors of a Cane

  • October 14, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    Hi Amy. I had to tell you Joe inspired me too. I also can’t believe I didn’t know the difference in a white cane verses one with red. I need to buy me a white cane. Thanks for the info and inspiration.

  • October 14, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Love this post! Love Joe, love his trainer. Kudos to you, Amy, for finding encouragement all around you. 🙂


  • February 21, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    I have a question that I hope can be addressed with frankness and a little insight to my situation…..;>)
    My “new normal” vision is still pretty new to me.
    I have pretty good sight in on eye and can do most things without problems. However, walking in crowded spaces just drives me mad! My choices are to stare at the ground in front of my feet all the time or look up and take a chance on tripping on something. (Believe me, that’s NOT fun!) People coming up on my right side are also a problem. Approaching stairs is a bit scary. Surely there is some tip out there to make traveling around people in airports, theaters and other busy public spaces easier. Any ideas? They would be GREATLY appreciated.

    Sign me,

    One who no longer likes going out and about.


  • February 24, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Hi Buddy,
    Thank you for your comment!
    I can totally relate to your frustrations! The thing is, it’s not going to get any easier. I’m not sure if your vision impairment is progressive like mine is but for me, the only option was to learn how to use a white cane! I contacted the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and got some counseling about coping with vision loss. The number 1 help to me was receiving orientation and mobility training with a totally blind trainer. I was more surprised than anyone when the training started to make my life better! The general public treated me much more nicely when they could see I had a cane. It was amazing. I still tell myself that my cane is more to let others know that I have a problem than anything else. I have written a book about my mobility training. I’m not the perfect cane user but I work with it and I find it helps me so much.There is another website that you might find helpful. This is
    Thank you so much for your patience in waiting for my response. I was out of town.
    Please visit my blog again, Buddy!

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