Braille Monitor May 2007
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by David Houck
From the Editor: David Houck is the executive director of the South Carolina Federation Center of the Blind in Columbia. He is also a longtime leader of the South Carolina affiliate. Every affiliate president could probably provide a list of names of members who need to read and digest the concepts in the following little essay. Unfortunately those folks usually canít be bothered to read the Braille Monitor or the state newsletter. Still, the impulses it points to occasionally take up residence in virtually every member and chapter, so we must guard ourselves against them and jolly ourselves and our colleagues out of them whenever they rear their ugly little heads. Here is Davidís warning:
Until recent years I had
never heard the term "ingrown eyeballs," and it took me some time
just to notice the disease. The symptoms are real. In fact, if left to spread,
it causes self-imposed quarantines, isolation, and flat denial of the disease
by those affected. In more serious cases it cripples the Federation body, which
leads to increasing incapacity. In the long term the disease is fatal.
Symptoms include chapter presidents or members who say there is no need to do fundraising, blaming their inability on their own physical blindness. As for attending state and national conventions, those affected maintain that "There is nothing to learn, and after all itís so far to travel when we have no way to get there because transportation is hard to come by--not to mention that getting around in unfamiliar places is too difficult."
If the chapter president
wants to work with members of the larger blindness community, infected members
will find excuses not to do anything outside the city limits or county lines.
The symptom called "localitis" focuses their attention on their needs
to the exclusion of those of others. Another symptom replaces independence and
self-confidence with concentration on the physical limitations of blindness.
If the affiliate president urges the chapter to get busy with statewide projects or national issues, the affected group rejects the request with disgust. The usual symptom to watch for is anger. Sometimes this attitude results from hurt feelings or bruised egos because chapter members did not get the attention or flattery they thought they deserved. "After all, we have enough to do in our own area. We cannot be expected to do anything beyond our chapter."
If these symptoms spread to other chapters, the disease will cripple the state organization because one side of the body is ineffective and lethargic while the other side has to carry the ball, working ever harder to meet the affiliateís responsibilities. Eventually the local chapter dies because no one cares enough to lead it. It will take years to eliminate the indifference of the blind in the area and reorganize a chapter. The health of the entire state affiliate declines. Its participation in the national organization wanes. Convention attendance falls, involvement in PAC and other funding efforts declines, and support for important programs affecting blind people locally as well as nationally withers away.
The cure: Identify the symptoms early and prevent them from spreading. Support your fellow blind people inside and outside your local area. Take part in every possible state and national event and program. Your chapter will grow and be lean and effective. Local leaders will emerge to succeed the chapter president, staff the committees, and carry out state and national duties. The health of the local chapter improves and bolsters the Federation statewide, which improves the Federation nationally, which is good for all blind Americans.
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