The Braille Monitor December 2005
by Sharon Buchan
From the Editor: Sharon Buchan has been an active member and leader in the NFB for a number of years now. She and her husband Bill have retired to Orcan Island off the coast of Washington State. She reports that she still looks for ways to be an NFB gardener even in her out-of-the-way corner of the world. In addition she has become a potter, selling her work in local markets. She does not allow her customers to be told she is blind until after they have decided to buy her pieces because she does not want to be characterized as "a good potter for a blind person." She also arranges flowers for others and, when asked, advises friends on home decorating. She says that she will now try her hand at more writing as well. But she was determined that the first thing she would try was her story about Diane McGeorge. Here it is:
When I was thirty-two years old, an air force ophthalmologist told me I had a rare eye disease. He said I would have to give up driving and would eventually not be able to read print. I was devastated, and by the time I drove home I thought my life was over. I knew my husband would divorce me, perhaps I would lose my children, and I would be on welfare and have to learn Braille.
What actually happened was that I did learn Braille and lost none of the people I loved. We moved to Alaska in the late 1970's, and I decided to go to the Sensory Impairment Center for Blind Adults. I also attended my first NFB convention.
I had just given up driving, and I did not want to go to this convention. I had met the president and vice president and did not like either of them. My husband thought I should go, and he practically dragged me to the hotel. I did have a cane and had been using it. I sat in the lobby by myself for a long time and thought of ways I could get out of there. I had a girlfriend I could call who would let me stay with her for the weekend. I did not want to be with all these blind people.
I found out I had a roommate, and I did not want a roommate. That roommate turned out to be Diane McGeorge. I was impressed with her. Her hair was beautifully coiffed, and she was immaculately groomed. She was self-confident and caring, and she had this wonder guide dog named Pony. I remember being deeply impressed by her dog. When I kept going on about the dog, she said, "Sharon, you know, I direct the dog; he doesn't direct me." I asked her questions like how did she know what colors looked good on her and plenty more stupid questions. She answered every one of them graciously. I complained and whined about being blind. Then I watched her read Braille, her fingers flying across the page as she looked up and made eye contact with the audience. She spoke as eloquently as anyone I have ever heard, handling one delicate situation after another.
After the convention some of us met in the president's suite. The state president wanted to call Dr. Jernigan to tell him how well we had done with fundraising. Remember, we were in Alaska, and on the East Coast it was two or three in the morning. Even though she had Dr. Jernigan's home number, she would not give it to the president, explaining that it was important for him to get a good night's sleep.
Shortly after that experience my husband and I were stationed in Europe for almost four years. During that time I came back to Alaska for six months to learn Braille and also NFB philosophy. A year later we returned to Alaska, and thanks to Jim Omvig, the affiliate had a new president, Kay Porth. Due to Kay's poor health, I became president within the year.
About three years later Diane came back to Alaska as the national representative. I introduced her as Diane NFB-seed, because over the years I had had time to think about that first convention, the NFB, and Diane. I knew I wanted what she had. I did not want just her wardrobe, hairdo, and smile, but her love and enthusiasm for life and for the NFB. I wanted to have her self-confidence, can-do attitude, and Braille and mobility skills. I wanted to return to the workplace as a competent blind person with a meaningful job. And finally, I wanted to give back to the NFB, the organization that had already given me so much. At that convention, when I introduced Diane, I told folks how I had whined about being blind and what an impression she had made upon me. Diane came to the podium and said, "Sharon just told the story I was going to tell you," adding, "What makes it all worthwhile for me is coming back and seeing how Sharon has grown and changed."
After that convention I
attended my first national convention, and a few years later I served on the
Scholarship Committee, where I met several other NFB gardeners. I learned that
the secret NFB fertilizer is love and hard work. It is still a thrill for me
to watch the NFB seed planted, bud, and bloom.