American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections
       Winter 2016       GROWING UP

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Of Sparrows, Dirty Dishes, and Following My Arrow

by Danielle Trevino

From the Editor: Parents and teachers hear a great deal from the NFB about having high expectations for blind children. But what does that mean in everyday life? In this article Danielle Trevino reflects upon the ways her parents held her to high expectations and helped equip her for future success. Danielle recently moved to Baltimore to take a position at the National Center for the Blind as coordinator of social media and member engagement.

Danielle Trevino smiles broadly as she sits beside her guide dog, Katie.

The house where I spent the first fifteen years of my life was an old one, built in the 1890s. The rooms were divided in an interesting way. There were two mudrooms between our back door and our kitchen, and the attic was located at the far end of our upstairs bathroom. Because of its location and a gap in the roof, our attic sometimes became the entryway for birds.

One day when I was seven, I walked into the bathroom, closed the door behind me, and was met by the furious flapping of wings. Screaming, I ran downstairs, yelling for my dad. I had never been so close to a bird in my life.

After making sure that I was okay, my dad told me to go wait in my room. When he came to find me, he shut the door behind him and told me to hold out my hand. I did so, and my fingertips touched something small and soft and alive.

I started to scream again when I realized that he had brought the bird into my room. "It's more scared of you than you are of it," he told me. He took my finger and made me touch the little sparrow's beak and wings. When I touched its tiny chest, I felt how fast it was breathing, and I knew that my dad was right. That poor thing was terrified! Now, as an adult, I'm still not a huge fan of birds, but I'm glad I faced my fear all those years ago.

My parents were born in Mexico. They both came to the United States as young kids. When I asked my dad recently how they knew how to raise me, their blind daughter, he said, "We did what we could. We made it a point not to treat you any differently, and we worked with what we had." I was the second of three siblings, and when Dad says that he treated me no differently, he's telling the truth.

There's a defining moment in each of our lives, a moment when we suddenly know how things are going to be. For me that moment came about thanks to a sink full of dirty dishes.

When I was eleven, all I wanted to do was talk on the phone. I would speed through my homework and chores, trying to beat my big brother to the corner of our kitchen where the phone hung on the wall. One evening I was rushing through the dishes when one of my uncles stopped by. My dad asked me to bring my uncle a glass of soda. I grabbed a "clean" glass, filled it with Pepsi, and brought it to the dining room.

As I walked away, Dad called me back to the table and told me to give him my hand. He apologized to my uncle and said, "I can't let you drink out of this glass."

My uncle protested, but my dad put my finger on a line of something sticky on the outside of the glass.

"It's not a big deal, Jaime. She couldn't see it," my uncle said.

"She's going to learn to do it right, blind or not," my dad responded. He took me back to the kitchen and proceeded to put all of the dishes I'd just washed back into the sink. "Do them again," he said, and walked away.

Today I know the language for that experience--he was raising the expectations for me. Back then, though, I didn't know how to explain the feeling I had, my sense that this was how it was going to be from now on. I just knew that my dad expected more from me, and my blindness was not going to serve as an excuse.

My childhood is full of similar instances. My mom taught me how to clean house and take care of my appearance. When I was twelve and my baby sister came along, Mom taught me to take care of her, too. My dad would build or modify things for me as it became necessary, all the while teaching me how to change lightbulbs and how to change gears in a stick shift car. He taught me the names of all of his tools. My life education went this way until I moved out of my parents' house at the age of eighteen.

The year 2015 has been a time of significant changes in my life. One of the more drastic changes was my move to Baltimore to work for the Federation. When I told my dad about the job, he asked me if I was excited. Yes, I told him, I was--but I was terrified, too.

"What is there to be scared of?" he asked. "We've equipped you and taught you. Now you got to run with it."

Recently my dad came to visit me. I was honored to have him stay at my apartment; to take him to dinner; to visit Washington, DC; and to go with him for a few walks around my neighborhood. During breakfast on the last morning, he told me that I've done well. He said he's proud that I didn't let my blindness hold me back. I reminded him that he raised me without a choice. He made me redo the dishes, just as my siblings had to redo them if they did a poor job. He just laughed and said that's how it should be.

He's so right! I'm grateful that he and my mom held me to that high standard. As our one-minute Federation message says, "Low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams." My parents didn't know it back then, but they were equipping me to be successful. They gave me the confidence to follow my arrow wherever it leads.

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