by Yadiel Sotomayor
From the Editor: Frequently the onset of blindness leads to depression; sometimes it is so extreme that people actively consider taking their lives. In the following story Yadiel (pronounced Jadiel) Sotomayor briefly recounts his personal struggle and describes the way people in his affiliate offered him a way out of his hopelessness and a reason to believe he could live and thrive. Here is what he says:
In one of my classes the professor asked us to write a thank-you speech. She told us to forget about the grammar and just focus on writing. We had only fifteen minutes to do it. While trying to think about someone I wanted to thank, a very bad memory popped into my mind: the time I tried to escape from life. So I decided to write about the organization that helped me remember that life is worth living, the NFB. Here is what I wrote:
Many people deserve to be thanked. However, this thank-you speech is not aimed at one person, or two, or three; it is aimed at an organization that has helped me in more ways than I can mention. I speak of the National Federation of the Blind.
What does it take to make a person try to take his or her own life? Is it cowardice or bravery? Is it a cry for help or a last desperate attempt to try to fix something? I cannot answer that. What I can say is that it must be something bad.
During the summer of 2008 I was standing in the kitchen of my house with a knife in one hand, ready to cut my veins. What stopped me? To this day I do not know, but I do know that I was desperate. I did not know what was going on. I was losing my eyesight fast. I always knew it was going to happen. However, I thought it was five to ten years away. I was tripping and falling a lot because I could not see the floor. I could not lose myself in the lands of books and video games anymore. I had nowhere to go. I needed answers. Alternatively, I needed somewhere to escape.
A month after I stood in the kitchen with the knife, I discovered the National Federation of the Blind. At first I thought I did not belong. I thought that I was in the wrong place. However, I was mistaken. After the meeting began I introduced myself. In front of everyone the president of the NFB of Puerto Rico asked me, "Are you blind?"
I answered, "Yes."
He said, "Then you have come to the right place."
The NFB taught me the basics of cane travel so I would not fall when I walked. They taught me how to read Braille so I could get lost in the magical lands of Hogwarts, Narnia, and Middle-Earth once again. They taught me that there is nothing wrong about being blind.
In the summer of 2010, just shy of two years after joining the organization, I won a national scholarship. I went to Dallas, Texas, where I saw thousands and thousands of blind men and women living normal lives. I met and saw teachers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, and all sorts of blind people working in different professions, living the way I wanted to live, a normal life.
I am at present working on a second bachelor's degree. My future goals are mixed. Originally I thought I wanted to become a translator, but lately I have started to take a liking to teaching. I am currently trying to get a degree in teaching English as a second language. I am the president of our affiliate's assistive technology committee, and one of the things I enjoy is helping other blind people learn their way around a computer.
Dozens, maybe hundreds, of people have transformed me from that frightened child with a knife in his hand almost four years ago into the man I am now. Doctor Kenneth Jernigan with his teachings about what it means to be blind; Doctor Marc Maurer with his desire to improve the quality of life for blind people; Alpidio Rolón, the president of the Puerto Rico affiliate, with his guidance; Lydia Usero, the first vice president of the Puerto Rico affiliate with her kind words and encouragement; Shalmarie Arroyo with her friendship; and the list keeps growing. Instead of thanking each one of them individually, I thank the organization that brought all of them together. Thank you, National Federation of the Blind, for taking that knife out of my hand and giving me a white cane, which I will use to march with my blind brothers and sisters and spread the true meaning of what it means to be blind.
One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.
Seize the Future
The National Federation of the Blind has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that the gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more:
NFB programs are dynamic: