Future Reflections        Convention Report 2012

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Starting at Zero
Our NFB Convention Experience

by Natae Jones-Beasley

Ten-month-old Mo Jones-Beasley of Tennessee sits on the floor.From the Editor: Natae Jones-Beasley was formerly a school counsellor. She and her husband have two children and live in rural Tennessee.

It was our first convention. Why did we choose to go this time? Well, our son wasn't old enough to attend before. Actually, he wasn't born yet--that's our excuse!

My husband and I have been blessed with a blind baby. Our son, Moses (or Mo, as we like to call him), was only ten months old when our family made the journey to Dallas on a hot June day. We weren't sure what to expect, flying to the annual NFB convention, especially since we came from several states away and had our toddler and baby in tow. We simply knew that, even though we were at the very start of our journey, the NFB convention and NOPBC conference would be invaluable resources.

I could write many paragraphs about the beautiful venue, the insightful workshops, the motivating speakers, and the wonderful people we met. Instead, I want to share a couple of my "aha!" moments. I had many of them, but the following really linger.

I enter the first session of the NOPBC conference and listen to some college-age blind kids talk about their lives and their plans for the future. A young man is speaking; he really seems to have his life together. He's a kid who is going places. When I see him up close, his wandering eye reminds me of my baby. I have never before seen another kid like this. I feel I am getting a glimpse of the wonderful possibilities that lie ahead for my little one. What a refreshing moment!

One evening, my family is going to a gathering of parents. While we wait in line, me with Mo on my hip, several mothers of blind children chat with us. They immediately recognize Mo's blindness, and they swoon over him. It feels so welcoming! Typically, talking with strangers about Mo goes something like this:

Random Stranger in Grocery Store: Look at him! He's so cute! He's so sleepy, he can barely keep his eyes open.

Me (nicely, with a will to educate): He's not sleepy. He is blind.

Insert various startled reactions.

For the first time ever, it is:

Curious Stranger: He's darling! Is he blind?

Me: Yes, he is.

Insert gushing and ah-ing.

A couple of years ago, I could have been one of those startled strangers in the grocery store. I never imagined that one day I would be the mother of a blind child. I never foresaw how special it would be to meet a baby like our Mo. As I talked with other parents at convention, I knew I was at the beginning of an unexpected, but enormously wonderful, journey.

We definitely took home more than we brought with us to Dallas. The most important thing we carried away was a sense of belonging. Not only are we more connected with the parents of blind children and the blind community, but we have made new friends who also have blind babies! Yes, they do exist! We particularly hit it off with two other couples. We all have babies only a few months apart. One of those babies has the same diagnosis as Mo. We felt an instant bond. It was like bumping into old friends. We keep up regularly on Facebook. I can't wait to see these friendships grow and bloom for our children.

My advice to parents of blind babies? Take advantage of what the NFB and NOPBC have to offer. The best thing we can do is to start building a strong and positive foundation for our families. I'm glad we jumped right in and attended our first convention. We want to offer every opportunity to Moses, and I know this was a perfect start.

Hey, why not start at zero?

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