What do toothpaste and railroad tracks have in common? Just
about the same that axes and law books do--nothing and
everything. They are the building blocks of the routine of daily
existence. In a very real sense they are the essence of humanity
When I was younger (maybe 40 years ago), there was a popular
song called "Little Things Mean a Lot." It dealt with what the
title implies, but its message was much more than that. It was
that each little incident (relatively unimportant in and of
itself) combines with all of the other trivial events that are
constantly happening to us to form the pattern of our lives. It
is not the major events but the recurring details that make us
what we are--that determine whether we will succeed or fail, be
happy and productive or sad and miserable.
This is the eighth Kernel book, and it is the logical
extension of those that went before it. Some of you have been
with us from the beginning, but for those who haven't, let me
give you in the order of their production the titles of the first
seven Kernel books. We began with "What Color is the Sun" in
1991. Then we followed with "The Freedom Bell," "As the Twig is
Bent," "Making Hay," "The Journey," "Standing on One Foot," and
"When the Blizzard Blows." Now we come to "Toothpaste and
The Kernel books have a constant theme and a common purpose.
It is to let you know something about the details of everyday
life as blind persons live it. Mostly we are not world famous
celebrities but ordinary people just like you--people who laugh
and cry, work and play, hope and dream--just like you.
The stories that appear in these pages are true. They are
written by those who have lived them. These are people I know
personally--former students, colleagues in the National
Federation of the Blind, blind men and women of almost every age
and social background. There is, of course, one exception. I
did not know the blind beak of Bow Street. He lived before my
time, but his story is so interesting that I wanted you to have
Since I am blind myself, I think I know something about
blindness; and since I am a member of the National Federation of
the Blind, I think I know what blind people as a group are trying
to do and how they feel.
We feel about the same way and want about the same things
that you do, and when we fail (which all of us do now and again),
it usually isn't because of our blindness. Rather, it has to do
with lack of opportunity and the fact that too many of the
general public believe we are unable to make our way and do for
ourselves. Since we are part of the broader society, we
sometimes tend to accept the public view of our limitations, and
thus do much to make those limitations a reality.
But overwhelmingly the future is bright for the blind.
Because of our own efforts and because of help and understanding
from an increasing number of sighted friends, we are changing
what it means to be blind. And the Kernel books are helping make
it happen--just as you who read them are helping make it happen.
The National Federation of the Blind is a nationwide
organization primarily composed of blind people. It is the blind
speaking for themselves with their own voice, and the Kernel
books are an important part of that voice.
I hope you will enjoy this book and that through its pages
you will make new friends. I also hope that you will also gain
new insights concerning both toothpaste and railroad tracks.
WHY LARGE TYPE?
The type size used in this book is 14 point for two
important reasons: One, because typesetting of 14 point or larger
complies with federal standards for the printing of materials for
visually impaired readers, and we wanted to show you what type
size is helpful for people with limited sight.
The second reason is that many of our friends and supporters
have asked us to print our paperback books in 14-point type so
they too can easily read them. Many people with limited sight do
not use Braille. We hope that by printing this book in a larger
type than customary, many more people will be able to benefit