Monday, August 13, 2012

Adventure at Turner Falls

August 11th I attended my first church activity for single adults which took place at a park called Turner Falls. I had an AWESOME time hiking, exploring a small cave and lounging in the warm water of the river. Most of us who decided to hike the trails were from the Dallas/Fort Worth area and so I found myself with strangers who quickly became friends. In addition to having a great time I had several experiences that are unique to someone playing around in the great outdoors while being almost totally blind. I will share one of these.

There is an area of the park where the slow-moving river widens and deepens, creating an ideal location for swimming or floating. One side of this area has two slides built on top of a rocky hill that can only be accessed by those who swim to the ladders built into the rock. A few of us decided to swim across the river to go sliding.

Wearing my swimsuit, bandana, sunglasses, hiking boots and carrying my white cane, I joined my companions but quickly lagged behind and soon had no idea where they were. Keep in mind I am swimming with water-logged hiking boots and limited to using one arm since I needed to grasp my cane. One of the group members who remained behind, saw I was lost and began yelling directions amid the tumult of noise created by scores of people around me. After a few minutes I stopped, listened and headed towards the sound made by swimmers hitting the water as they flew off the slides. Somehow I avoided being smashed by those coming off the slide and made it to the ladder. Even though I am in good physical condition, this one-armed swimming with hiking boos was beginning to wear on me and amid the commotion nobody would have noticed me going under water.

I stood in line and soon it was my turn. I sat down, gripped my cane horizontally between both hands and began my descent. Mid way, I realized the impact would remove my sunglasses and bandana. I accelerated and hit the water faster than I anticipated and momentum pushed me under. I felt my bandana and sunglasses coming off and somehow managed to grab my sunglasses. After surfacing I swam out of the way to avoid collision. (Later I was told I narrowly missed being smashed.) And then it happened. My cane slipped from my grasp. Did you know that fiberglass canes do not float? Special thanks to John who made four dives trying to retrieve my cane. With the use of both hands, swimming became easier but I had no idea where to go.  After a short time one of the group members swam to me and guided me to the shore. But without my cane, I was forced to hold onto the arms of the ladies in my group.

Upon my retrun, I was informed that almost everyone in the area stopped to watch me. At first I wondered why but then realized it is probably unusual to see some crazy blind guy climbing up a ladder, while holding a cane, and then letting gravity hurl him into the river, all the time wearing a bandana, sunglasses and hiking boots. Next time I will bring two canes, just like I did at scout camp!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Power to Inspire

In June I attended scout camp as an "adult" leader for the fourth consecutive year. Scout camp gives one the opportunity to learn from different experiences. One thing I learned is it does not matter what the camp food looks, smells or even tastes like. These considerations are irrelevant because there is nothing else to eat, and since scouts cannot bring firearms to camp, hunting is not an option. So the camper learns to eat whatever "food" is placed before him. Another valuable lesson is to inspect bathrooms and showers before using them. One does not want to discover a tarantula or scorpion in the facility after he has commenced using it. The camper also learns to accept dirt as part of life, just as one would accept the neccessity of breathing. But these are all lessons learned previously and accepted as part of the experience called scout camp. But this time I learned something new, something about myself. I learned I have the ability to inspire.

I occupied most of my free time at the camp’s 45-foot climbing tower. One evening as I scaled the most difficult side, I overheard one of the camp's leaders remark, quite loudly, regarding the blind man climbing the tower. He was apparently talking to another adult leader and was amazed that someone who could not see could climb. Initially his obnoxious manner annoyed me but I didn't let it bother me too much. He was astounded that a blind man could also be in such good physical condition. The next day I heard the same individual, talking loudly again, telling someone about that blind man who could climb the tower so well and was in such good shape. (I suspect the only other blind people he had encountered were those who had become blind from diabetes and probably suffered from poor health.) He went on and on about how amazing it was that a "blind man" could get around and do the things I was doing. Additionally, I heard from the scouts in my troop that many others had noticed me in camp and were impressed that I was even there, much less climbing, swimming and performing the duties of a scout master.

At first, I was annoyed with the man who kept talking about me as if i wasn't even there but after reflection, I imagined myself observing someone with a significant disability and not letting it deter them from participating in camp. I realized out of approximately 1000 scouts, leaders and staff, I was the only one walking around using a cane because I could not see. It's little wonder I was being noticed. The obnoxious sounding man wasn't trying to be derogatory, he was simply impressed that someone who was blind was not only at camp, but doing things that others wouldn't even attempt. My reflections helped me to understand that by overcoming my disability I had the capacity to inspire others.

My point is not self-agrandizement but to illustrate those who have to deal with a significant disability can impact the lives of people in a positive manner by helping them appreciate their own blessings and possibly, inspire them to overcome their own personel challenges. I hope that I will continue to live my life in a manner that inspires, especially my family. I also am inspired by those who overcome adversity even greater than my own. But my situation is not unique because as Victor Frankl said in his book, "Man’s Search for Meaning”, all of us have a unique mission in life that cannot be replaced by someone else. I believe that all of us have the ability to inspire others we come in contact with. Let us all live our lives to inspire!

Friday, August 3, 2012

You Can't Go It Alone

As mentioned in my posting, "Casualties of the War" one of the casualties was my relationship with God.  As I moved from emotional withdrawl from my family to a spiritual withdrawl from God I became angry.  I shut down emotionally and made it almost impossible for Teri to give me the emotional support I desperately needed.  After pleading with God for many months to let me sleep, and not being able too, I began to withdraw from God.  After my sleeping problem abated somewhat I faced another challenge, the difficulty of providing for my family financially.  After my attempts to secure employment as a massage therapist failed, my withdrawl from God turned to anger towards him.  Throughout this whole experience I turned away from those who could help me the most.  I was trying to deal with my challenges alone, and trying to ignore the impending blindness.  In effect, I was "going it alone" and doing so cost me dearly.  When you are facing adversity, please let those around you help you, especially God.  Do not shut out those who want and can help you, especially God.  Do not go it alone.