by Agnes Allen
From the Editor: One of the controversial beliefs espoused by the National Federation of the Blind is that blindness is but one of many characteristics and that to spend much time trying to figure out what one might or might not have done had he had sight makes little sense. One might as well speculate about what she might have done had she been given fifteen extra points on the IQ test or whiter teeth. One can’t pick and choose these things, so the best we can do is get along with our lives, capitalizing on our advantages and figuring out ways to make our perceived disadvantages work for us. Agnes Allen has not only reconciled herself to being blind but says she likes it. In her long and varied career, she has been an educational consultant for blind children in New Jersey, a home teacher for the rehabilitation agency in Pennsylvania, has raised three children, has retired, and is currently helping a blind woman study for her GED. In her spare time she enjoys her grandchildren as they grow. Here is how she describes coming to live the philosophy that blindness is a part of her life, but not the ultimate defining part:
The concept of whether I like or dislike being a blind person has never given me pause for serious reflection. Would I love to see the faces of my daughters or the smiles of my nine grandchildren? Of course I would. Have I wished I could view the heavenly universe with its stars at night, the bright sky, or springtime flowers? Indeed I have. But the reality is that I cannot see any of these things.
I accepted this long ago as a child of five when sight was first denied me. Perhaps this acceptance entrenched itself deeply in my psyche through the process of osmosis. A loving family, a school for blind children, and a welcoming and forward-looking college and university conspired to build my self-esteem, which ultimately led to my well-being as a blind person. The opportunities I enjoyed fostered feelings of usefulness and self-worth. Through them I could reach out to others and give back what I had received.
Were it not for the positive direction in which my life unfolded, I could have remained a helpless and dependent individual, unhappy with blindness and a burden to family and society. This was not the case. I choose two significant ways to illustrate how faith in God and becoming Braille literate provided the motivation to reach my major goals.
A strong religious faith has lent itself to overcoming major obstacles inherent in blindness. Without faith no other achievement in life would have meaning. In addition to blindness, God willed that I deal with, and accept, a major hearing loss. Hopefully my core values have wielded a healthy influence on my family, friends, students, clients, and many members of the blindness community.
At the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind in Pittsburgh, I mastered the art of reading and writing Braille. This major accomplishment laid the foundation for my future education. With Braille I gained much independence and success. I became a competitive student, competent teacher, practicing social worker, proficient proofreader, responsible mother of three, and caring grandmother. As Grandma I read stories to my grandchildren, who did not seem amazed that I could read those dots with my fingers but who simply enjoyed listening to The Tickle Tree or The Five Little Monkeys. Can there be a more bonding experience?
I could go on and on singing the praises of Braille and its advantages. I have described two of many areas which have made the condition of blindness more bearable and yes, even comfortable. To be blind has not been the end of the world but has led to the entrance to a whole new world, which, if I could see, I would never have known. Within this world I have encountered many people and demonstrated to them the joys and happiness of a person who just happens 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:
Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB planned giving officer.