Braille Monitor                                                                           December 1986


Opening up a Bag

by Jane Crawford

(Jane Crawford is from Trumbull, Connecticut.)

What does one do with a mixed bag of emotions except to sort them out?

Here is what is partially in my bag--a feeling of being an outsider, confusion and chaos, admiration, pride mixed with anger, and finally a sense of belonging.

This bag started filling up when I arrived for my first NFB convention in Kansas City.

I am a sighted person, and although I had understood that the convention was open to all who had any dealings with the blind (I am a teacher of the visually impaired), I began to feel alienated. There was the confusion--all those canes and all those dogs--all those people trying to get from one place to another--all that sense of misdirection and even downright pushiness on elevators and buses. These were my initial impressions, and I didn't want to be there.

Then, all of a sudden, things began to come together for me. I attended seminars (still feeling like an outsider, especially after hearing about "agency" people). My thoughts were, "I'm not one of those," and "I 'm not trying to do for the blind that which they can do for themselves," and "Holy Cow, maybe I am!" That's when I stepped outside of myself and really looked at what was going on.

This convention was like any other--a mixture of people brought together from all over the world with different educations, different ideals, different philosophies, et cetera. But with a common purpose--to stand up for what they believe in and to fight for it. That's when the admiration began to set in--and the pride--and the anger.

I have no idea what it takes to organize something like Kansas City, but I can imagine the work and dedication. I started to become proud of the people I met and of myself. Chaos had become exuberance and interest and caring. Anger became channeled into action, and then my sense of alientation left me. I could make friends here.

I came home to find that a job I really wanted was mine. I will go on teaching the visually impaired, but with new understandings of what I am really supposed to do. It is after all what people can do for themselves that counts. That message was the final item that I took out of my bag when I got home from Kansas City.