Halfway up the stairs to the bone-white, beehive Basilica of Sacre-Coeur, I lost count of my climb. My legs remembered every trembling step, but they could no longer do the math On the vast portico, swarming with earnest worker bees, guidebooks in hand, I turned to take in the triumphalist, panoramic view of smog-shrouded Paris -- a vision marred by the massive carbon boot print of 11 million Parisians. As my stomach snarled from my meager morning meal, I searched for a place to eat my equally meager lunch.Soon, I spied a bench wide enough for three people, but with only one occupant, an old Frenchman, blind from childhood. As I watched the tourist crowds run amok, careering into one another, I asked if I could sit down beside him, and we struck up a conversation in French. Affable, intelligent, alert as a bird among cats, he was reading a braille biography of Marie Antoinette. I was impressed. He then told me how as a result of an untreatable eye disease, he had had his optic nerves cut as a boy. It was a drastic treatment, to be sure, but common at the time. Now, he said, his life nearly over, he seriously contemplated suicide, plagued by the meaningless daily routine of a visit to Sacre Coeur, where he rested, a fixture unseen by the unsettling crowds. He could find no other purpose. So, thinking myself a therapist to the world, I leaned in close and remarked, "There is always hope." "Why do you say this?" "Because God exists." "Ah, God exists," he retorted in a half question, half scoff. Below, the carousel's calliope played a delightful, dancing tune. He listened intently. After that, we sat silently side by side for several minutes, he hearing the shuffling feet, I watching the mobs of visitors overrun the balcony. We never spoke again, until it was time for me to enter the basilica. We exchanged "adieux," and I walked away. To this day, I wonder what the blind man heard, among the noisome crowds, on his lonely bench at the base of the beehive Sacre-Coeur.