Giving It Away

Helping others is the best way I cope with my own blindness.

Now, here’s the back story.  I earned this helpful point of view only after protracted periods of physical isolation and emotional withdrawal.  Whew!  I elevated denial, anger, depression and bargaining to an art form.  Still do, only less than before.  That’s normal in vision loss, but hardly helpful.

To help others, I first needed to help myself.  And you’d think that my social work education would have helped me breeze through those stages of grief. You’d be wrong and so was I.  The disease humbled me.

A few years back, I heard that the Guild for the Blind was starting a support group.  I said, “I don’t need a support group.”  Twenty-two years into vision loss and I was still thinking like an idiot.  I went on about my marginal way.  The next time the group was offered, I said, “Well, I might not need this for myself, but maybe I can help some newcomer.”  I gave a little and took a little.  Now, I hang on for dear life.

Coping with blindness is a collective, not a solitary, endeavor.  While I understand that all I am is of my own making, that doesn’t mean I have to shovel my way out all by myself.  I have learned that I can fight alone or recover together.  I accepted the paradox that to surrender is to join the winners.

I have been blessed with friends who have taught by their example that giving it away is the surest way to keep it.  In my volunteer work with the Guild for the Blind and Harold Washington College and my employment at Friedman Place, I try to give back what was freely offered to me.  That’s the best and the least I can do.

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6 Responses to Giving It Away

  1. bethfinke says:

    Your posts always have such clever turns of phrases — my favorite from this particular one: fight alone or recover together. Great writing. Great work.

  2. What you write about is like the “pay it forward” theory and I agree, there’s nothing more rewarding – and theraputic!

  3. Sara says:

    You continue to reward us all with new insights for coping with life’s challenges…whatever the situation. Thank you for that gift. All the best in 2012.

  4. sarah says:

    You have shown me my own self judgement, that I’m more blessed with the people on ky life than I know….to receive their support is love in its purest form….you continue to inspire…

    • Jeff Flodin says:

      Thank you so much for your comments. The purpose of Jalapenos is to create an exchange of ideas to help us all cope with vision loss. I am happy that comments have come from visually impaired people and from sighted people who learn something of the realities of blindness. Thank you all for reading.

  5. Carl D. says:

    Jeff you are the “Blind Man’s Paradox”. You inspire and frighten me. Your gallant charge against the windmills of the blind is a sprit lifting delight. But, I am frightened to wave the flag for blindness – but, I do not wish “to kill desire”..
    So, I add a sixteenth century poem;:
    Thou Blind Man’s Mark by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586).
    – Or you can listen to it on youtube.- it go like this.
    Thou blind man’s mark, thou fool’s self-chosen snare,
    Fond fancy’s scum, and dregs of scattered thought ;
    Band of all evils, cradle of causeless care ;
    Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought ;
    Desire, desire ! I have too dearly bought,
    With price of mangled mind, thy worthless ware ;
    Too long, too long, asleep thou hast me brought,
    Who shouldst my mind to higher things prepare.
    But yet in vain thou hast my ruin sought ;
    In vain thou madest me to vain things aspire ;
    In vain thou kindlest all thy smoky fire ;
    For virtue hath this better lesson taught,—
    Within myself to seek my only hire,
    Desiring nought but how to kill desire.

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