The Braille Monitor                                                                        November 2005


So What Can You Do?

by Jean King

From the Editor: The following article appeared in Voice of the Diabetic, Volume 20, Number 1, Winter 2005, published by the Diabetes Action Network of the National Federation of the Blind. One of the fundamental tenets of the National Federation of the Blind is that blindness need not be a tragedy. All too often, however, especially when it is only one of several disabilities, it can be powerfully debilitating. What is one to do under those circumstances? Jean King looks at this painful question and evolves the answer that worked for her. Her story is pure inspiration. Here it is:

I recently called the Talking Book Library and requested an inspirational book that would help me with the task of being legally blind. I received a book the next day. The writer, an elderly, retired columnist of some sort, recounted for me the problems he faced and documented all the things his wife did for him.

At first I had wished for such complete custodial care. I had already known the problems this man spoke of, but I dutifully finished the book, boxed it up, and promptly sent it back. Then I wheeled myself out onto our beautiful deck and had a good cry.

I could have generated these emotions on my own. I had not needed the book I had spent my day reading. Then I felt anger at the time and energy wasted in this effort to get myself fixed. While I was atoning for my anger, it occurred to me: since I hadn't found inspiration, I wondered if, perhaps, I might have it to give. Up to now, I have not shared my experience. I have guarded my feelings just in case they might not be legitimate. But now I will share them.

Twenty-some years ago, when I was in my forties, my feet began to give me trouble. I did not have diabetes, but I had all the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. My first task, it was soon apparent, was to convince the medical establishment and its psychological cohorts that my pain was not all in my head. That done, I traipsed to the major medical clinics, confirmed my own diagnosis, and discovered there was little else to do. I finally accepted reality and went about experiencing the painful loss of real sensation in my feet and legs. It has since moved on to my hands, face, and gut but is somehow not very relevant to the real living of my life anymore. It is just part of my reality.

The nerve loss in my feet was taking away the long hikes in the Colorado mountain foothills and impeding my ability to drive, even with the hand controls I used at that time. Reading was becoming increasingly difficult. I had read constantly since before I started school, so I thought perhaps I should cut back on what might be over-use of my eyes. It did not help.

My ophthalmologist recognized the problem. Over the years we had not discussed my macular degeneration much, but in 1992 she sent me off to another specialist, her friend, who specialized in low-vision problems, and she broke the news that I was now legally blind.

There were not many choices left to make. I had already given up my driver's license. I was not ready to give up being a public school teacher. Registration with the state department of vocational rehabilitation was a given. The staff valiantly attempted to find a means for me to continue teaching. My husband cooperated in every way. Nothing worked. I said goodbye to my last student. I went home to accept my new situation and to mourn.

My husband returned to work. At home I huddled under an afghan that my mother had crocheted for me long ago. I could not cry. I huddled. My dog Daisy, a Cairn terrier, cocked her head and watched my behavior in dismay. She chased her tail in a futile attempt to get me to go for a walk. Then, when I lay down completely, she leaped up and settled herself on top of me to wait. She sighed...and waited. She waited for months. I dwelt on all the things that I could not do. Still she waited. Finally my sluggish mind wandered. It wondered: what can I do?

If I could find my shoes, I could venture outside for Daisy. She was at the door, watching, waiting for me. While I waited for her, I could see a tall weed in my columbine garden. I could sit on the ground and pull it. I could. I could scoot over a bit and reach another. I could. They needed water. I could. That night I met my husband at the door with a grin that he had almost forgotten. I could. Daisy smiled with my husband.

Each day Daisy helped me find things that I could do. She smiled again as she got her first good hair brushing in a year. I could smile too. I could. My emotional and physical pain is not what I need to share with you. We are the experts on what is our own. What I want to give you are the things I learned while dwelling on the things I had lost. You will not have time to do that job yourself once you realize that you too can do.

As you know, in your own life you will suffer losses through aging, perhaps through diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, macular degeneration, or some of the other ills of mankind. Whatever those losses are, I ask you to face them. Look at whatever it is in the light of reality. Look it over well. Get to know exactly what you have lost. Accept it. Mourn it thoroughly, but don't take too long about it. Life is short.

Then ask yourself a question: what can I do about this condition, now that I have just accepted it? The keyword here is "can." Don't waste your time on the reverse. Find one thing that you can do and act on it. Another "I can" will follow. If it is slow to appear, do the first "can" again while you wait. Celebrate it.

There might be something else you can do. Think about it; be creative. Hand controls on my car allowed me to keep driving for a time, in spite of neuropathy and numbness in my feet. Another example: I now read books on tape. I didn't quit reading--I switched. And I recorded my own favorite recipes on tapes while I still could read print. Then we found new measuring cups at a discount store made for folks with limited vision. We marked the temperature settings better on my oven control--and I was a cook again.

Do everything you can think of to help yourself. Then drop it. If you can do more, you will think of it. Do it and move on. Mantra for dealing with loss: face the loss. Mourn the loss. Do everything you can do to mitigate that loss. Locate the help you need and ask for it. Accept the help graciously and move on.


Giving for Income–How You Can Make a Charitable Gift
That Pays You Income for Life

Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA)
Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT)
Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT)

* What is a Charitable Gift Annuity?

A Charitable Gift Annuity (CGA) is a contract under which, in return for a transfer of cash, marketable securities, or other property, a charity agrees to pay a fixed sum of money to the donor (annuitant) for a period measured by one or two lives. These payments are fixed and unchanged for the term of the contract.

Payment Initiation of Charitable Gift Annuities:
Immediate Gift Annuity – The annuitant starts receiving payments at the end of the payment period immediately following the gift.
Deferred Gift Annuity – The annuitant starts receiving payments at a future time. The date chosen by the donor must be more than one year after the date of the contribution.

Types of Charitable Gift Annuity Agreements:
Single life agreement – Pays one person only for his/her lifetime.
Two Lives in Succession Agreement – Pays person A first. If person B survives person A, agreement pays person B.
Joint Survivor Agreement – Pays two people simultaneously.

Guidelines for Gift Annuities with the National Federation of the Blind:

Annuitant(s) must be sixty-five years or older.
Minimum amount of Gift Annuity Agreement is $25,000

Example: On April 1, 2005, Kathryn Jones, age sixty-five, made a donation of $25,000 to the National Federation of the Blind in exchange for a charitable gift annuity at 6.0%. She received a charitable deduction of $8,882.25 for the gift. Her annual annuity payments of $1,500 are based on her life expectancy of 19.9 years.

* What Is a Charitable Remainder Unitrust?

In establishing a Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT), the donor transfers cash or property irrevocably to the trust. The donor decides what percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets he or she wishes to receive as income (must be at least 5 percent). Unitrusts offer a wonderful hedge against inflation. As the value of the trust increases, so does the income. Conversely, if the value of the unitrust declines, the donor still receives the same percentage, but income payments are smaller.

* What Is a Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust?

A Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust (CRAT) is similar to a unitrust, but the income the donor receives is set as a fixed amount when the trust is established. In this way the donor receives reliable, stable income that is not subject to market fluctuations.

For more information please contact:
Izzy Menchero, Director of Outreach Programs
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2408, email: