The Braille Monitor                                                                                       December, 2002

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Why You Should Take a Risk

by Julie Deden

Skiing guide Mark Masto and blind student Mark Davis in action
Skiing guide Mark Masto and blind skier Mark Davis in action

From the Editor: Julie Deden is the director of the Colorado Center for the Blind, one of our three NFB adult training centers. She was recently reminded of one of the primary reasons our adult training philosophy is effective and life-changing. This is what she says:

Have you ever been asked to do something that you don't really want to do? How do you handle this? Do you say no immediately? Do you always say yes? Or do you avoid the situation altogether? Why do we avoid certain tasks or situations? At our NFB centers we teach our students to be honest with themselves about challenges. Many times we avoid situations and activities out of fear. We think, "Can I do this?" "What will happen if I fail?" So, rather than taking on the challenges, we attempt to hide from them. Sometimes we rationalize. One might say, "I really don't have the time," or, "I have done this before, so why do it again?"

As blind people we face unique challenges each day such as going to an unfamiliar place for the first time or convincing an employer that we can easily handle all aspects of a job and that we should be hired. The challenges that we face are not insurmountable; they can be dealt with and conquered. In order to tackle these challenges head on, we must have inner strength and tenacity. If people say, "You can't do that; you are blind," we need to educate them and show them that they are mistaken.

That is why we challenge our students at our NFB training centers. We don't just go rock climbing and skiing because it is fun; we go because we want our students to know that they can face and conquer challenges.

Last week Sumara Shakeel, one of our travel instructors, sent Steve out on an independent travel route. Steve was to go to the hardware store in downtown Littleton and purchase some items for the center. On his way out the door, Steve stopped by my office and told me that he could not go on the route because he was not ready for this. I told Steve that he was ready and that he needed to complete this assignment. Steve grudgingly walked out the door and went on his way. When he returned, Steve had all of the items and was glowing. He thanked Sumara and me for having the confidence in him that he does not yet quite possess himself. Steve needed that encouragement to complete his assignment and gained a great deal of confidence in himself as a result of this experience.

So be honest with yourself when you hesitate to do something. If you let your blindness stop you from fully participating in all aspects of life, consider training at an NFB center.

Last winter I had the opportunity to ski in Vail through a very exciting program. I was scared to death because I had not downhill skied for many years. I really did not know if I wanted to go, but I realized that fear was stopping me. Then I thought, "Julie, you are the director of the Colorado Center for the Blind. You are a role model and need always to push yourself as you ask the students to do." So I went skiing, had a great time, and gained confidence in myself as a result. I was sore but happy.

If you are looking for challenge and fun at the same time, Foresight Ski Guides will give you exactly what you are looking for. With an annual contribution of $50 you can ski at many resorts in Colorado. You will receive a five-day lift ticket, trained ski guide, new equipment rental, transportation assistance, and lodging assistance. Contact Mark Davis at (866) 860-0972 for more information.

So whether you are skiing in Colorado or challenging yourself in any other way, remember to take that risk. You'll be happy you did.

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