Written by Jo Milne


Jo Milne: A diary of firsts and lasts

Since the world watched her hear for the first time, Jo Milne has been on a journey into sound, all the while knowing her world is getting darker by the day. This week she reflects on a grand act of kindness from a stranger.

kindness quote on wall“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” A quote by Mark Twain, and one of my favourites.

I close my eyes as I tilt my head towards the window on a train journey. Exhausted but satisfied to be part of Cheltenham Book Festival, to be fortunate enough to spend time in one of Britain’s most beautiful cities. To raise more awareness of sensory loss.

I’m fascinated as I stare out the window, almost like a mirror with complete darkness outside. The reflection shows a busy carriage and lots of people. People. Going about their daily lives with barely a happy word or thoughtful gesture between them.

I enter a daydream and remind myself of my recent good news: a complete stranger is to send me on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to see, literally to see, the New Seven Wonders of the World, so I can make visual memories before Usher Syndrome continues its assault on my sight. Such a selfless act, because this person doesn’t want gratification or glory. They want to remain anonymous.

Seven New Wonders of the WorldStill feeling somewhat gobsmacked, I sip my shiraz and smile at another stranger who looks blankly back at me, almost uncomfortably shuffling in their seat.

I’ve always thought it’s our nature and somewhere deep inside the human psyche to know that being kind is the right thing to do, and to be alert to the needs of those around us. We’re genetically wired that way and if it makes us feel good, we’ll keep doing it.

Of course humanity is so much more complicated than that. A person who seems sweet on the outside may be not that at all. And a person who seems nasty and angry all the time might just be hiding a world of pain inside.

I cried watching Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, a BBC drama-documentary presented as a sequence of poems. Sophie was an innocent, beautiful girl who was kicked to death in a Lancashire park in August 2007, all because of her appearance. Because she was a Goth.

“Can such hatred exist towards anything or anyone who appears to be different?” I ask myself. Of course it can, I’m not that naïve, but it baffles me to the core.

I was fortunate to grow up in an open-minded loving family. There really isn’t a ‘norm’ to me, just a knowledge that this beautiful world is diverse, and that’s what makes it so damn interesting.

I’m blessed to have life-affirming friendships and a social circle made up of all kinds of friends. To me, being ‘different’ is literally what makes up our individuality as a person. Simple as that.

How boring ‘people watching’ would be if everyone looked and behaved alike.

Since my implants were switched on last year, one of the biggest shocks to my system was discovering that when I walk down the street, it isn’t the quiet, serene place I’d assumed.

I’m amazed at how angry the world can be: impatient drivers who beep their horns, people arguing with each other, things thrown in temper. In some ways, I’ve become a little afraid of it, which wasn’t something I felt before.

I’d been blissfully unaware of the bad side of sound; after all, I’d never even heard half the names that kids called me at school. Perhaps muting out the badness in the world had been a blessing.

This is why I focus every single day on the gifts that come into my life and shrug off any negativity. The more I see of kindness, the more I mirror it back and naturally, this heightens the ‘feel-good’ faith in humanity.

Doing what we like and what makes us happy in turn makes us radiate kindness, a softness that attracts people – a complete win-win situation on all counts.


Jo Milne’s book, Breaking the Silence is out now. Her Facebook page can be found here.

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Written by Jo Milne

Gateshead-born author of Breaking the Silence, ambassador and campaigner. Jo has Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic condition causing deafness then the onset of a retinal disease leading to gradual loss of vision. Those who know Jo describe her to be inspiring as she continues to wring the joy out of life. @jomilne10