12 Oct 2014

The Colour of Friendship – International White Cane Day


 

“Be thou the rainbow to the storms of life,
the evening beam that smiles the clouds away,
and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray!” Byron



When I recently felt shaken by the ‘storms of life’ after two unsuccessful applications to further my writing career, a group of friends rallied to offer words of kindness in such a supportive way that I was able to see beyond the disappointment, and felt carried to clearer skies on the wings of friendship.

These friends are a group of people I have never met yet they were able to lift me above my clouds of doubt to a sunnier outlook, bringing cheer to my heart to not give up my quest. How is this possible?

It is through our shared experience of blindness.

The group of peer advisors I belong to all share our stories, our reflections and advice on an American website called VisionAware. Led by the program manager, Pris Rogers, I was accepted into their group in May of this year – and ever since I feel I have found my tribe!



“From the colour spectrum, any pure hue and colour
can be combined with white, black or grey to produce a tonal family.” Anon
 



For me, the way in which we support and mentor each other as well as a wider community of readers to the Vision Aware website, and can genuinely understand the ups and downs that being blind or visually-impaired brings to our lives, has been uncanny. Sometimes my friends write articles I can relate to so closely that it is refreshing to hear such insights from the heart and mind of others.

Emails fly back and forth, full of admiration, empathy, understanding, laughter and shared experiences that keep us working together as a ‘merry band of peers’ writing posts that reflect so many of our varied interests and personal skills. The bond of friendship and camaraderie is strengthened through genuine thoughtfulness, carried on the invisible communication lines of the internet!

So in honour of International White Cane Day on October 15 2014, I’m sending out a huge thank you from my corner of the globe, hoping these rays of friendship come beaming towards all the people in the ‘blindness community’ who are helping each other as peers, mentors  and ambassadors working together for a more Vision-Aware world!

Two other friendships that I am enjoying across the web of connectiveness are with Stella de Genova and Jeff Flodin, founders of Vision Through Words. Like me, they both have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and actively support a community of blind and visually-impaired writers and poets as we share our stories through the creative arts.

In a recent post by Jeff, his witty portrayal of two elderly friends trying to help each other as their vision declines, is a heart warming story of true friendship. I thank him for allowing me to repost the story here – I’m smiling already!

Helpers 

by Jeff Flodin





They call each other Al and Bert, these old men I know.  Al sold cars, Bert sold insurance. On Wednesday nights, they went bowling; on Saturday mornings, they went fishing.  They bonded, as men will.

Al and Bert were family men before the kids scattered, before Harriet got the cancer and Dottie just dwindled away.

Now Al and Bert live next door at Independence Village. They prowl the aisles at the Kroger store, resolute and clueless.  Al, bent by “Arthur itis,” steers the grocery cart.  Bert, lost in the blind spots of “macular,” pushes and follows.

“You’re pushing too hard, Bert.”
“I didn’t think I was pushing at all, Al.”
“Reach up there, Bert, and grab a box of Cheerios.  No, not there.  Over there.”
”Al, you gotta not say ‘over there.’  I got no clue where ‘over there’ is anymore.  You gotta say ‘up, down, left, right.”

“Left then,” says Al. “No, I mean your other left. A little more. Little more. Up now. There you go.”
“Got it,” says Bert. “Big yellow box.”

“What’s next on your list there, Bert?”
“Here, you read it. I left my glasses at the home.”
“It’s not the glasses you’re needing, Bert. You’re blind as a bat.”
“Am not.”
“Are too,” says Al.  “And this list. You got us back and forth all over the store.”
“I thought a list would help, Al. I was only trying to help.”
“But it’s got to be organized. Like an assembly line. I’m only trying to help here too, Bert.”
“Well, Al, you’re helping too much!”
“And you, Bert, you’re helping too little!”

They shuffle down the breakfast aisle, childish and childlike. “Jeez, Bert, I’ve never seen so damn many cereal boxes.

Used to be Grape Nuts was all you needed to get started in the morning.”

“Times change, Al, so I guess we oughta change too. Seeing as how it’s gonna take two of us, you be the hunter, Al, ‘cuz you can see things, and I’ll be the gatherer ‘cuz I can reach them.”

“You’re on, Bert. What’s next on your list here? Eggs. I’ll find them and you gather them.  Cheese and milk are over with the eggs.”

“And chicken fingers, Al.  Over with the eggs.”

“Chickens got no fingers, Bert. And you’re getting us off track again. We got to follow the system here.”

“I got the system, Al. Ice cream’s gotta be alongside milk.”

“Jeez, Bert, you’re a big help. Now reach over there and gather that carton of eggs. No, not that one, the one over there!”



Originally posted on Jalapeños in the Oatmeal



For further reading


For further reading, you can read many inspiring articles  offering insight on VisionAware.

I highly recommend the personal story from one of the peers, Leanne Gibson,  which is truly moving. In only a few months from being given the diagnosis that she is going blind, she has written to help assure us all that “a negative mind will never provide a positive life.”

Her story, “As I was sleeping” reveals Leanne’s life was about to change.. A war was raging inside my head. My brain had the knowledge of how the world was to look, but my eyes were incapable of sending the information.”



Copyright © Maribel Steel 2014
Photographs Copyright © Harry Williamson 2014

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