Editor's Introduction

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

Railroad Tracks."

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.

Kenneth Jernigan

Baltimore, Maryland



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

from it.