Future Reflections Spring 1996, Vol. 15 No. 2

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A PROMISE OF HOPE: MY FIRST NFB CONVENTION

by Susan Walker

Editor's note: Reprinted from the December, 1995, Braille Monitor, the monthy publication of the National Federation of the Blind. For subscription information write to: Braille Monitor Subscriptions, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.

From the [Braille Monitor] Editor: What is the impact of one's first convention of the National Federation of the Blind? How can one measure the benefit of meeting thousands of competent blind people and hundreds of focused, optimistic parents of blind children? There are no exact answers to these questions. But the impact of the experience changes lives and sows hope every July when the National Federation of the Blind gathers for its annual convention. Here is what one mother reports about her experience:

Last July in Chicago I attended my first NFB convention with my infant daughter Moriah, who is cortically visually impaired (CVI). Since I had been introduced to the NFB only weeks before, I really didn't know what to expect. However, I was primed for the convention by the contagious enthusiasm of Dawn Neddo, Barbara Cheadle, and Loretta White, all of whom I had met just days before at the June Lilli Nielsen Conference in Novi, Michigan.

Just a couple of months previously, my daughter Moriah had been diagnosed with CVI, and I was still battling shock and hopelessness and struggling for answers. Quite frankly I needed help. How do you teach a blind infant to crawl, walk, talk, or be potty trained? How will I cope? My husband and I are both firm believers that attitude affects 90 percent of what happens in one's life. Therefore, I knew it was crucial for me to regain a conviction of hope for my daughter's future and confidence in my ability to raise her.

When my funding for the NFB convention fell through at the last moment, I called Dawn Neddo to explain that I wouldn't be going after all and to thank her for her encouragement and help. It was then that I learned my first lesson in parent empowerment from the guru Neddo. The lesson is entitled "Never Give Up." Our conversation ended with Dawn saying, "Let me make a few phone calls, and I'll get back with you." Within minutes the phone rang, and Dawn told me to pack my bags. A scholarship had been granted to me.

Saturday, the first morning in Chicago, I was spellbound as I listened to Marc Maurer and Kenneth Jernigan speak. I could feel the promise of hope welling up within me as I listened to numerous parents and blind children give speeches and perform skits with confidence and ease. I watched in awe as graceful, confident people wove their way through crowded lobbies and hallways using their canes effortlessly. (I was greatly tempted to follow them as I tried to grope my own way through the wall of people.)

I had planned on attending only the parents' pre-convention weekend this year, so I really needed to return home the following Monday. My heart, however, was yearning insatiably for more of this thirst-quenching hope I had received. Deep down I knew that the key to keeping a hopeful perspective is continuing to meet with other parents of blind children. In watching others walk the path that now lies before my family, I see that many of the rough places have been made smooth by these heroic pioneers. I returned home with a feeling of peace and the promise of hope. Are you considering coming to the 1996 convention of the National Federation of the Blind? Chances are that it will change your life for the better. If you can handle an infusion of optimism, hope, and resolve to change the world, join us for the single most important gathering of blind people to occur in 1996. Read the following article for details.

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