by Gary Wunder
In writing an editor's note for “There’s No One Way to Get There” by Sheri Wells-Jensen, I realized I could not put into it all the things I think must be said about how we get where we are going. The first step to getting things done is realizing that they can be done, even if doing them may be more challenging than we would wish. Most answers to questions are in the affirmative: I do this, this, and this. But in the case of blind people and challenges, what we don't do seems every bit as important. Let me see if I can make something positive out of statements about what people who get along in the world don't do:
People who get things done don't just say, "It shouldn't be this hard." They may think it, but they know that complaining about what shouldn't be is less effective than working within the system to create something closer to what should be.
People who get things done don't just say, "I deserve better than this" when confronted with stressful or anxiety-producing situations. Sure they feel it, but feeling it and letting it immobilize them are two different things. Stress is a normal part of life. So too is some level of anxiety. Some things will always be hard; other things are hard but get easier as we repeatedly do them. But the stumbling block that keeps things hard, creates anger and frustration, and keeps us feeling like victims is the idea that we deserve better. One of my friends said that he has started asking himself how his problems compare to people who live in more difficult places in the world. I have to find a building. I don't know where it is. So how does my need to problem-solve my way to a solution compare with the girl who spends three hours each day going to get water for her family? How does it compare to the unfortunate refugee whose life has been torn apart by a war he didn't start and didn't want? He reminds himself that the issue he is dealing with is smaller, and within his ability to change. It’s hard, and it’s frustrating to have to deal with, but unlike war or physical distance from potable water, he can overcome it for himself.
One message we must find a way to share with blind people so they can live the lives they want is that stress, failing, and wishing things could be easier is a part of everyone's life. I get tired of making routine corrections to text we publish, but I bet my father got tired of moving levers on the machine that dug basements, and my mother tired of sweeping floors that were clean yesterday but were dirtied by foot traffic from all of us who failed to appreciate how much work went into her keeping things clean.
We need to look at the world without thinking of ourselves as disadvantaged or permanently hobbled. We have challenges. Considered together they can seem daunting, but one at a time they are manageable. Whether they are our curses or our salvation we can decide, and helping people see that there really is a decision is part of why the National Federation of the Blind exists. We are here to eliminate barriers, but we are also here to say that we are just as capable of dealing with them as others. We are not frail; we do not consider ourselves entitled to a stress-free world. We will live as best we can, invoking the prayer that has been the salvation of so many: God, grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.