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INDEX: Articles About Being Physically Blind

SPIRITUAL SIGHT SERIES

The LORD alone opens the eyes of the Spiritually blind that they may then understand the truth of the Word of God to receive the gift of eternal life! People have varying degrees of physical eyesight, and people have different levels of intellectual capacity. Eternal life is a gift from the invisible God who must be seen, trusted, and followed through spiritual sight.
NOTE: Bible verses are from the American King James Version .

PART 1: When I Am Weak, Then Am I Strong.

Just a few weeks after my promotion to Assistant Superintendent of the Springfield, Ohio Wastewater Treatment Plant in June of 1971, we began a major contract construction project to upgrade preliminary and post secondary treatment processes. By 1973, I had written procedures for the new equipment and processes to comply with Ohio EPA regulations, and I directed process and safety training for the 24/7 continuous plant operations staff. By mid-1973 my eyesight had declined so much that I had trouble reading print even in the best lighting conditions. I had been using felt tip pens to get high contrast for my notes and draft reports as I tried to keep up with my daily tasks in supervision and management. It was becoming increasingly difficult for me to review the daily logs and laboratory data that was all hand entered by various personnel on preprinted forms.

Had I not been in a management position, I would have been past the point of remaining employed due to my vision disability. The many sight-related job duties that I had in previous positions on the Operations staff and in the laboratory would have been inaccessible to me and not amenable to alternative techniques. The Lord's timing was already at work in my life, but at this point I was not acknowledging Him. The Psalms are a rich repository of emotional expression, and there was a very applicable verse for me, but I knew it not.
Psalm 38 "10 My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me."

I was discouraged and depressed, and I was expecting that soon I would be forced to leave the work I enjoyed, and go onto disability retirement at the age of twenty-seven. The Plant Superintendent and the Assistant City Personnel Director (who had previously been on my Operations staff before his promotion) both encouraged me to seek rehabilitation before making a decision, because they believed I could remain on the job with assistive technology and with their full support. I reluctantly prepared to enter a state rehab program in January 1974, but did not really have confidence that I would be able to continue in my position. The only thing I knew for sure was that I did not want to be blind! Without knowing the Lord personally, I could not then take comfort in a verse that later would become very precious to me.
2 Corinthians 12 "9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
As I end this description of the early part of my sight loss experience and how it affected my work career, my desire is that this next verse be fulfilled.
Psalm 19 "14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."


PART 2: Rehabilitation for the Adventitiously Blind

Arrangements were made by my local BSB counselor for my enrollment in a newly started private agency program under contract with the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, Bureau of Services for the Blind (BSB). In January 1974 I temporarily moved to a residential center in the greater Cincinnati area to enter the program that was structured specifically for adventitiously blinded adults. Here's the definition from the American Heritage Dictionary: "adventitious adj. 1 Acquired by accident; added by chance. 2 Biol. Appearing in an unusual place or in an irregular or sporadic manner: adventitious shoots. Lat. adventicious, foreign adventus, arrival. see advent. ad venti tiously adv. ad venti tiousness n."
The State of Ohio was using the term adventitiously blind to differentiate them from persons who were congenitally blind. So an adventitiously blind person would be anyone not born blind, but who became blind at some random point in life through a health related cause or an injury. The adventitiously blind person must transition from functioning in everyday surroundings that are best suited to non-handicapped individuals, to the position of adapting to a vast array of situations and settings normally inaccessible to the blind. In my case, I was born with retinitis pigmentosa that resulted in a gradual loss of eyesight, and at age twenty-seven I was physician certified as legally blind. . My group for the planned fifteen week session had four men and 3 women, ranging in age from the twenties to the fifties, with all but one client having some useable residual vision.

I arrived on a weekend to settle in to my room before the start of the first week of regular Monday through Friday daytime classes. The eight dormitory rooms each had two beds to allow for a maximum of 16 clients, but since there were only seven clients for this session we did not share our room. However, the rooms were in pairs and shared the toilet and shower facility with the adjoining room, having a door from each room to the facility, and privacy locks for the other door when in use. There was a sink and vanity area in each room for personal grooming. The building had been constructed specifically for the program which began in 1973, and it had two levels with the front entrance facing south in the center of the building at the top level. Because of the slope in the terrain, the lower level of the building was at ground level in the rear with another exterior door to the north. A long hallway ran from east to west in the rectangular shaped building on both levels with one exterior access door on each level.
The residence quarters were on either side of the hallway in the western half of the upper level of the building. Administrative offices were on the north side of the hallway in the eastern half of the upper level, and there was a client recreation room on the opposite side of that hallway, so the building could be described in quadrants separated by north/south and east/west halls. The lower level had food service and general purpose space in the northwest quadrant, an exercise room, and a complete model apartment in the northeast, a laundry room and small offices in the southwest, and classrooms in the southeast. This may seem like a lot of layout detail, but one of the very important factors for effective mobility for a blind person is to be as aware as possible of the details of surroundings to maintain clear orientation. Maintaining a good mental image of layouts is one of the things I had developed on my own for the Wastewater Treatment plant buildings, grounds, and many appurtenances as my eyesight declined. This was also true for the neighborhoods and commercial districts in which I traveled around the city where I lived. When your distance eyesight is limited, it is a good idea to know what to expect beyond the range of your sight. As a parallel comparison, apprehension about what lies ahead in the unseeable future for our lives can be significantly reduced for the Christian who has increasingly turned such matters over, by a trusting faith, to a loving God.

As I entered this rehabilitation program I was not yet a Christian, and after I became a Christian, I would need some definite maturing to counteract the long-term influence of the world system on my thought processes. You might say that the Lord had, unbeknownst to me, entered me into His custom program for adventitious salvation to new life in Christ in similar manner to the rehabilitation for physical sight loss. At the same time, the term adventitious doesn't really fit the condition of spiritual blindness because there was no random aspect to my need, and that need for salvation was present from the very beginning of my life. As I entered the state sponsored rehab program, I had little confidence that it would make a significant difference in my life. I was mistaken about that, but I was so much less aware of the tremendous present and eternal benefits of the Lord's rehab program for my spiritual blindness!
It is also interesting to me now to realize that even my physical blindness was not by chance, for the Lord is in control of all things. I can praise Him now as I "look" back on those past events. Neither having physical sight nor being physically blind is worthy to be compared with the absolutely critical importance of receiving our spiritual sight from the Lord.
Exodus 4 "11 And the LORD said to him, Who has made man's mouth? or who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?"
Mark 9 "47 And if your eye offend you, pluck it out: it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched."
Isaiah 29 "18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness."
Isaiah 42 "16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them."
John 9 "39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind."


PART 3: Elements of the Sight Loss Rehab Program.

In 1974 when I entered the rehab program specifically designed for people who had become blind as adults, I had been told there would be training for Braille, touch typing, mobility with a cane, adaptive independent living techniques, and regular counseling sessions to aide in the necessary adjustments. None of this particularly thrilled me because I didn't want to be blind, but I knew of no better choice at this juncture for me. The lead Braille teacher had been born blind, and she had a university master's degree. She was a very pleasant person with a keen intellect and a good sense of humor, and she could work with two or three students at the same time, reading there training books upside down from her vantage point as she helped us in our early efforts to read by touch. This young woman impressed me greatly in the way she seemed so satisfied with life, and she was even married to a blind man! The Braille instruction was such a basic approach of learning a few letters, then combining them to make words, and gradually building to simple sentences. It was like experiencing early elementary school again. We were each given our own training books so we could study outside of class. Gradually we also used a slate and stylus for making our own Braille letters, and this was an interesting experience because in order to make the raised dots on the paper, it is necessary to turn the paper over and write (punch one dot at a time in each cell) from right to left. Needless to say, writing did not come too early because it could be very confusing to think of a mirror image of each character in order to emboss it onto the paper.

Later we learned how to use a Perkins Brailler which had only six typing keys along one parallel row, pressed in simultaneous combinations as necessary to make any combination required in the six dot pattern of a Braille cell. The Brailler embossed up through the back side of the paper, so it was possible to check the letters tactually immediately after making them. The Braille was for our own reading and writing to give us direct access to words again, and touch typing was to provide a means of providing a readable form of our words for sighted people to read, even if we made some typos, depending on how proficient we wanted to become. Hunt and punch was not an option for most of the typing students since we could not see the markings on the keys, and it was likewise not necessary to cover them to ensure that the student memorized the keyboard layout. A sighted instructor was needed for this class since this was prior to all the synthetic speech access technology of more recent years.
"Talking Book" machines (record and cassette tape players with variable speed controls) were also available for listening access to certain transcribed print material. This was all new territory for me, and I had not previously known any blind people to hear of their personal experiences in everyday activities.

When we become Christians, there are alternative techniques that we need to learn for better understanding of the Lord through the Bible, and the way He would have us to conduct ourselves.
1 Corinthians 2 "12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Some people become Christians at a young age with their Bible learning parallel to other academic development, but others such as myself, need to do a lot of study having been converted as an adult. A scholarly study of the Bible without eyes of faith will not reveal the true character of our Lord, and the path He desires for our lives. But, because a Christian has a personal relationship with the author of Scripture, we can go directly to Him for a more complete understanding.
James 1 "5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraides not; and it shall be given him."
These things of the Spirit were still indiscernible and unattainable to me while I was in sight loss rehab, as I was not yet a Christian.

There were two mobility instructors to work among the clients, and both had specialized university level training for mobility. This included course work on various physiological and psychological aspects related to adults learning to travel using a sighted guide; or cane technique , sounds, and any other forms of information to compensate for the information no longer available with sight. Using a sighted guide effectively involves both parties understanding the techniques to be employed, and then requires a responsible guide and the trust of the one being guided. My instructor explained how I was to hold his arm at the elbow, and the way he would use both spoken tips and body movement to let me know of upcoming changes such as steps or narrow passage ways. We started walking slowly inside a building with stairs and various doorways, and as the training progressed, the speed increased and the instructor would try to keep a general conversation going so my mobility technique had to be more on a subliminal level as I tried to participate in the conversation.
Psalms 23 "3 He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
Proverbs 3 "5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths."

We left the training center building and moved to a local school for a layout UNFAMILIAR to me. I trained with a blindfold so I would need to travel with no sight at all to develop the maximum benefit and confidence of cane travel in the event that I would someday lose all residual eyesight. The cane length is selected to match the stride of each client and it is to be held in the middle of the body at the waist, and moved alternately from right to left so the tip will fall on the surface in the position of the next footfall. The cane should land on the surface with enough force so as to produce a sound, and to allow tactual feedback about the texture of the surface (carpet, hard surface, grass, etc.). The instructor gave me information about the hallway layout and that there would be just a few stairway steps at a given point, and a metallic conveyor belt in the floor at another point. He then left me and I could start as soon as I was ready. I collected myself after listening to the sounds around me, and then I took a few steps and ran into an open door that projected about halfway into the hallway at a right angle to the hall! The instructor was quickly back at my side, and said, "the cane doesn't always pick up every obstacle." Well now, there's a confidence builder! This then became a case in point of the importance of good orientation (familiarity) to the surroundings in the travel areas. I completed the remainder of the mobility exercise without further incident. I did comment to the instructor that as I approached a wall at the first "T" hallway intersection, I felt a tingling sensation on my face and upper chest. He said research had indicated that we can hear a reflected sound and our body automatically tenses for the impending impact. Another confidence builder? -- well, maybe or maybe not. The combination of some early success in the training, and the developing relationship of respect and friendship with the instructors were beginning to give me some comfort in this new setting. The Lord was also working in my heart in a quiet way that was not even evident at this point, but a much deeper comfort was ahead for me.
Romans 15 "4 For whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."


PART 4: Using Visually Impaired Mobility Techniques.

After some basic training and exercises in a mostly controlled setting inside buildings, the instructor moved us to the environs of neighborhoods and light business districts. There are some new challenges for cane travel in an outdoor setting since the cane can only detect obstacles from the waist down. It is important especially to protect the eyes, because over hanging trees or shrubs can inflict injury without warning. I always wore my eyeglasses for protection when I trained outside even though they did not significantly improve my distance vision. Another aspect of the specialized mobility training was to blend whatever remaining reliable residual eyesight with the techniques of cane travel. That blending actually became problematic for me since I had poor central vision with slightly better peripheral, very slow adjustment to bright sunlight or entering shaded areas, and astigmatism. My night vision was very poor, and correct interpretation of my fragmented visual information could be disrupted if I became rattled. Trying to balance use of my ever decreasing eyesight with the newly acquired cane technique required continual re-adjustments.

Well, the first thing that grabbed me between the waist and the shoulders, as I approached a street corner with a traffic light, was a pole mounted control box. While I was shaking off the collision, my mobility instructor came up quickly behind me and said, "I hate those things! I was too far behind you to give you warning." As I rubbed the area of impact on my body, I simply quipped, "You? hate those things? I don't exactly like them myself!" He then told me that one good thing about them is that you can hear the relays clicking inside and have some clue as to when the traffic light is changing. But it is always important to listen to the traffic pattern. So, when the light changed and the parallel traffic started to move, I preceded to cross the street. About half way across the intersection, a turning car whizzed just barely in front of me and was promptly pursued by a patrol car for failing to yield to a pedestrian. What a comfort to know that if I had been flattened by the car, perhaps the offending driver would have been apprehended! The police capture was described to me by the mobility instructor after I had somehow safely reached the other corner. Does the Christian walk ever seem this way to some of God's children? There are many unexpected events in life that will happen to the Christian, even though our heavenly Father walks much closer to us than any mobility instructor, and He could prevent any calamity that will not be used for his glory.
Psalms 32 "8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go: I will guide you with my eye."
Could anything be better than that guidance for anyone, even for those with no eyesight impairment?

Though it becomes a recognized fact through training that the cane cannot provide information about obstructions above the waist, failure to properly use it can leave hazards undetected even at the feet of the blind traveler. For practice, I was assigned to enter a certain bank branch and obtain a free brochure from a teller. As I entered the building, I did not anticipate the first step down, and my momentum carried me very rapidly down the next five or six steps. I was able to maintain my balance, and took a few moments to regain my composure at the bottom landing, before moving on into the business area of the large open room. From the outside of this modern building with large glass panels all around the entrance, my very nearsighted vision had convinced me this was a simple grade-level building and I didn't use the cane to full advantage to find those steps going down. Over confidence is a common pitfall in many circumstances of life, and the Christian is not immune from such an attitude. These are the times when we need the mercy of the Lord.
Psalm 18 "36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip."
Then we need to return to the reliable guidance He provides in His Word.
Psalm 119 "1 ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD."
Psalm 119:105 "NUN. Thy word [is] a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
Psalm 119 "133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me."

Near the very end of the mobility training period, a trip to downtown Cincinnati was planned involving riding a bus down, a couple of specified stops with verification, and a return bus trip back to the rehab center which was about seven miles from downtown. After lunch the mobility instructor said he would see me back at the Center in a few hours. I talked with some of the food service staff a little too long, and missed the bus I was supposed to take to begin the exercise. Since I didn't know how to contact the instructor, and I didn't know the bus schedule, I went to a phone booth and called a cab. The cab ride got me downtown before the bus I had missed arrived, and I followed the prescribed route for several blocks adjacent to Fountain Square in the Queen City. I went into the Carew Tower, and even before I could locate the elevator on my own, a man who was a stranger to me asked if I needed anything. I told him I needed to go to the eighth floor, so he quickly grabbed me by the arm and led me over to an open elevator, pressed the correct button, and said good-bye. I picked up the pre-arranged brochure at an office there, then went back to street level and walked about a block and a half to buy a sweat band at a specific sporting goods store. I caught my return bus and was back at the Center ahead of the mobility instructor. When he arrived, he was mildly upset, and said he was on the bus that I was supposed to ride downtown and I never boarded. I told him how I had missed the bus to downtown, but that I had completed the rest of the exercise and the sweatband was on the desk in his office. After retrieving the sweatband and receipt, and giving the situation some thought, he decided that the exercise had produced the desired demonstration of independent travel. Later there was a trip to the Greater Cincinnati Airport to get a sense of the size, layout, and sounds of a typical airport setting. The mobility training was a major component of rehab that I needed to better function as a blind person, but there were some other elements that would prove to be very useful with continued development over the coming months and years; and the most important change of having my spiritual eyes opened was yet to come.


PART 5: Becoming Part of a New Community.

Something I had not anticipated in the rehabilitation program for sight loss, was that being together with others who shared this circumstance of sight loss, and having some instructors who were themselves visually impaired, would become an integral part of the whole process. Classes were on a daytime schedule on weekdays, and the evenings and weekends became a time of interaction with the other clients. Food service was provided as part of the room and board for the clients for all meals, and it was served cafeteria style. Since we were a small group, we all ate together at the same long table. Later I would learn of the similarity of community benefits for Christians in the local church when I became part of the Lord's family. The local church should be a place where Christian teaching and fellowship can help in the mutual growth and enjoyment of our new life in Christ. A common approach to the challenges of daily living, and a shared position to truly sympathize with the hurts of others, are two very important factors in a community of people.
2 Corinthians 1 "4 Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God."
1 Thessalonians 5 "9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ 10 who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort yourselves together and edify one another, even as also ye do."

I had never known any blind people in a personal way, and I had many misconceptions as I considered characteristics of blind individuals in a narrow manner by not realizing the great diversity that could exist in such a group. The Braille instructor who was totally blind from birth was a major factor in reshaping my idea of what it means to be blind. She was very cheerful, confident in her work, and very patient and caring. She had a master's degree and interacted on an equal level with the other professional staff members who were sighted. What a beautiful parallel to the desirable conduct of a committed Christian who is content with the station in life designed for them by the Lord, because the world is constantly observing! Gradually I found myself thinking more of the other clients in the program with me, and wanted to be uplifting to them as we together tackled the challenges of learning new ways of doing everyday activities without the benefit of sight.

We began to talk about classes during mealtimes and evenings, and we shared personal experiences which in some cases had been very hurtful when they happened to us, but now had an element of humor. One such incident from high school days was related by a partially sighted client from southeast Ohio. He had approached a person with shoulder length hair to ask for a dance, only to be harshly rebuffed by that person in a male voice! Another fellow from St. Louis told a story of being hassled by a drunk in a bar. The antagonist kept insisting that the man wasn't really blind because he had seen him come up to the bar by himself and sit down. When the blind man finally got perturbed enough by the annoyance, he popped out his one prosthetic eye and plopped it onto the bar in front of the man. The drunk was so shocked at this that he vomited.
One evening I was walking with these two men in a neighborhood near the Center, and some small children were across the street from us. When they saw the three of us each with our canes, they began to sing "three blind mice," and we chimed back to them "give us a piece of cheese!" This little outing took place a number of weeks after the program had started, and by this time we were feeling much more comfortable at our adaptations, and we had developed friendships with each other that allowed us to laugh at many situations.

In the recreation room in the Center were a number of games, puzzles, and other adaptive items for leisure time. Some were designed for those with low vision, and others were tactually marked for use by the totally blind. In addition to this facility there was a volunteer coordinator for extra curricular activities. She arranged for us to attend several outings including: a concert in Cincinnati featuring the Stattler Brothers, a pairs roller skating event teaming a sighted person with a blind person, and taking part in the studio audience of the Cincinnati TV program of Nick Clooney (father of the actor George Clooney). Another interesting way the Lord used this woman in my life was that she was open about her Christianity in her conversation. I had been away from church since upper elementary school, and had bought into the ever increasing man-centered philosophy of our society. I considered myself an agnostic. I tried to debate with this secure Christian. She was willing to discuss her strong faith in detail, but she saw debating about the existence of God as fruitless because Bible truth is spiritually discerned, not discovered by our own intellect.

I was probably more impressed with this woman's demeanor and gentle spirit than I would have been with skillful debate. but the Holy Spirit was only beginning to slightly open the door to my heart. I praise the Lord that He did not leave me in my unconverted condition! I now am much more aware, through Scripture, of the Lord's design as described by Paul in Acts.
Acts 28 "22 But we desire to hear of you what you think: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. 23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. 25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spoke the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet to our fathers, 26 Saying, Go to this people, and say, Hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and not perceive: 27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 28 Be it known therefore to you, that the salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."
And I now say to the above verses, Hallelujah, Amen!


PART 6: A Modified Lifestyle.

As I approached the end of my time at the rehab Center in March 1974, and continued my adjustments to sight loss, the staff worked individually with me for items that would be applicable specifically to my situation and my modified lifestyle as a blind person. This individualized approach to training was a very effective feature of this rehab program. The Braille instructor read from a Braille version of the manual so I could become familiar with some of the less obvious features of a variable speed open reel tape recorder. Again I was impressed with this totally blind woman as she read so fluidly that it seemed she was sight reading. A high school volunteer then worked with me a few afternoons as he recorded the print manual that accompanied training material on 33and 1/3 records for a course on Effective Listening that I had purchased. This provided me with a customized package that I could use without further assistance. The staff also arranged for a sales representative to demonstrate to anyone interested, a closed circuit TV system with a zoom lens and reversed image for higher contrast. This was an expensive unit (models ranging from $1800 to $2700) for viewing print material by a person with low vision. When I was ready to return to work, I purchased one of these units to use on the job. Because of my salary range, the state could not offer any financial assistance for this purchase.

In the model apartment of the Center there were practical exercises in organizing storage of items in the kitchen with tips on using touch, sound, and smell rather than sight for information. Examples: Brylcreem and toothpaste both come in tubes, but you can tell the difference by smell. Orange juice and milk may each be in a carton, and again by smell you can tell the difference before you accidentally pour orange juice on your cereal. If you are very careful, you can hold a glass while you pour, and you can feel the weight change. Another method is to slip one finger inside the glass so your sophisticated built-in heat and pressure sensor can detect the liquid level. Aluminum clothing tags are available to be sewn onto clothing for color markings. The tags have standard two letter abbreviations for colors, and are safe for going through laundry. Learning to make more use of the other four senses can reduce much of the everyday frustrations of little or no eyesight. Many of these techniques are easily available to a normally sighted person, but they usually are not developed because sight is more commonplace and often more effective. Since I had lived in an apartment by myself for six years, I had improvised many adaptive techniques on my own. There were other tips such as noticing the difference in size for coins and whether their edges are smooth or have ridges. With some sighted assistance, bills could then be organized by different folding techniques or different billfold compartments for the different denominations. A sighted person can place a straight edge above or below a signature line as a reference point so a blind person can write a signature. There are many more techniques, and most blind people develop their own variations according to personal preference. It is also very important for the blind person to communicate any important preferences when working with various sighted people for a mutual comfort level.

When I first entered my office building to return to work after the rehab process was ended, I was somewhat startled at the way the room "sounded" to me. The walls and doorway openings were so pronounced in location that it took me by surprise. It didn't take long for that effect to dissipate to a more subdued level, but I did enjoy my increased awareness of sound cues around me. There also was an element of novelty about my white cane, my use of Braille, and my closed circuit TV viewer. So, there was a period when most of the people around me had questions about my experience and about some of the devices I now used. I began to use a dictation recorder more frequently for work notes and for some memos for the secretary to transcribe. As I got back into my routine of reviewing handwritten logs on the CCTV, and dealing with a variety of other supervisory pressures, I realized I was no longer in the idealized environment of rehab where acceptance of blindness and generous accommodation were inherent features. Some of my high level of confidence with rapid success in the rehab process (I finished the planned 15 week schedule, after only 11 weeks) was now ebbing away. My biggest "fall" was not far off, but my greatest recovery would follow that; and my life would be forever changed in the most positive manner possible!

Now that I have been in the church as a believer in Christ Jesus for over thirty years, I have seen some instances of people who were in a local church with the atmosphere of the truth around them, but without that change in their heart that will sustain the believing Christian. When hard times come, or when the world system seems to have more to offer, they wander away, losing what they could have received as a free gift with untold benefits. The separation that should be somewhat evident in the life of a Christian (a lifestyle modified by choosing to live for God) may sometimes be uncomfortable to the point of causing some to abandon those differences in favor of blending in with those outside the church. Unlike a physical impediment that cannot be removed (i.e. my blindness), the restrictions from behavior displeasing to God can be thrown off to allow the return to what is actually bondage to sin. The Word of God and the fellowship of other believers can provide new tools for dealing with life's difficulties, and a hope for a far better life after this one has passed! Nothing can separate us from the love of God, so no circumstance proves Him unfaithful, but we must maintain our trust in Him, and remember that as Christians we are in the world, but not of the world.

Job 13 "15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain my own ways before him. 16 He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him."
Psalm 31 "1 In you, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in your righteousness."
Psalm 56 "11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do to me."
Psalm 143 "8 Cause me to hear your loving kindness in the morning; for in you do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul to you."
Romans 8 "35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Praise the LORD for His boundless mercy and unfailing love!

PART 7: When You Hit Rock Bottom.

Personal expectations help to define for each person just what they believe is "rock bottom" for their life. An outside observer might not think the situation for someone else should be quite so difficult to accept, or that it could be much worse. But when hope has diminished past the reserve capacity of coping, the stresses of life can be mountainous to overcome to reverse the trend. Such was the case for me after some personal matters began to dissolve at a time when my confidence on the job had also begun to dissipate. When I first returned to work after the rehab training had concluded in March of 1974, I had renewed hope that I could stay on the job even with my legal blindness, but the weekly routines of life can gradually wear down the resources of the human spirit. I lived in an apartment by myself, and personal matters off the job by late May brought me to the lowest point of depression that I had ever experienced. I was just about to give up on everything, but thoughts of my family, especially my father, kept me from taking a foolish course of action.

Let's back up just a bit to 1968 when my brother Bob and I built his house. We were both at the threshold of legal blindness, but we did the framing, walls, doors, windows, and roof for his house. This experience gave Bob the determination in 1974 that he and I would be the ones to re-roof Dad's house so Dad would not need to attempt to be on the roof. So I left my apartment and walked the several blocks over to my parents house. Dad knew I did not have the best frame of mind that weekend in May, so he cautioned me not to go onto the roof while he and Mom were out of town, unless I was sure I would be alright. After I had some lunch I went onto the roof and moved close to the edge to start another row of shingles. Loose grit from the old shingles caused me to loose footing and I slipped feet first off the roof. I blacked out before I hit the ground from this single story house. I was trying to get up from lying flat on my back as some of my sisters gathered around me. I couldn't use either hand and I tried to shake off what I thought was just a sprain. My sister Mary finally convinced me to let her drive me to the hospital where I was admitted with two broken wrists and a slight fracture to my back. When my parents returned, they visited me in the hospital and I could hear the pain in Dad's voice as he quietly said, "I told you not to get on the roof." All I could say was I know Dad, I know. I was in the hospital for four days, and when I was released, my youngest brother Richard came to stay with me in my apartment for a few weeks since I had casts on both arms from the hand to the elbow, and had virtually no strength in either hand for performing common routines. One morning as I awoke, I could not feel or move my legs. I lay there for a moment wondering if the compressed vertebrae had damaged my spinal cord to paralyze me from the waist down. There I was, legally blind, with two broken wrists in casts, and now I couldn't move my legs! I decided to try moving my upper body to stir some life back into my legs, and after awhile I was able to move them again.

This seems like a good place to apply the term "rock bottom," but actually it may not be an apt description of my situation because I had earlier made a choice that was much greater in significance than it had seemed at the time. Alone in my own apartment, just a few hours before I fell from the roof, I had turned my life over to God with a prayer something like "if you are really there take control because I can't handle it anymore." That point was actually my "rock bottom," but also my new beginning. I didn't fully understand what I had done, but my soul was crying out for help. Throughout my life, I could never quite believe that religious effort could earn the right to heaven; but I also couldn't accept any alternative to heaven, or to being religious to reach heaven. As I sat by myself in my apartment, I was feeling that I had nothing left in my life to offer to God. So, my only choice was complete surrender to Him. From that point of simple surrender to God, I gradually gained confidence in Christ. Even during the recovery from the broken wrists, I was being comforted in my inner being in ways that had not been previously available to me. This was perhaps my "Elijah in the wilderness" experience now that I belonged to the Lord, because the outward signs seemed to belie the truth that He cared for me.
1 Kings 19 "1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and with how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. 3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. 5 And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said to him, Arise and eat. 6 And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again."

The physical loss of my eyesight that I experienced brought me to Christ. I lost something that I could not keep beyond death, and I gained eternal life that I can never lose! The improvement in my life is not just a hope for eternity, although eternal life in itself is worth losing one's physical life completely! God knows that we have many needs even now, and His Word says,
Matthew 6 "33 Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you."
Too many times we concentrate on our physical conditions, and forget that there is an eternal home of far greater importance for focusing our thoughts.
John 5 "5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he said to him, Will you be made whole? 7 The weak man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steps down before me. 8 Jesus said to him, Rise, take up your bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath."
After thirty-eight years with no muscle development and no accompanying coordination, this man was immediately and totally healed of his debilitating infirmity with no physical therapy needed!
John 5 "14 Afterward Jesus finds him in the temple, and said to him, Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come to you."
Would another thirty-eight years of being largely helpless be a "worse thing," or is Jesus warning that the worse thing is to remain in sin when there is a way to have it cancelled? And the one able to give that gift of forgiveness of sin is the one who verified His power by the miraculous healing. I am so very thankful that I found the rock of my salvation in Christ, to be saved by grace through faith and have my sin forgiven. What a joy to be able to say with king David,
2 Samuel 22 "47 The LORD lives; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation."
I want to be among those who joyfully praise the name of the Lord Jesus forever!


PART 8: Navigating the New Life.

I asked God to take control of my life while I was alone in my apartment, because as a legally blind man I was ready to give up on myself. Then just a little later on the very same day I fell from the roof of my father's single story house resulting in two broken wrists and a 5% compression fracture to one vertebra -- What would be next? During my five week recovery period from the fall, I had the support of a wonderful family. I had most of my meals with my parents and the brothers and sisters who still lived at home. I am the fourth of eleven children, five boys and six girls. My parents had those eleven children together, and they were married for about 53 years before my father died in 1992. Four of the five boys have the hereditary condition of retinitis pigmentosa, but my eyesight probably declined more rapidly than the other three. I was never able to drive a car, while each of them had a license for a time, but was forced to stop driving as their eyesight deteriorated. I was the first one to use the Ohio Bureau of Services for the Blind to provide assistance and guidance in dealing with my sight loss.

None of my family new of my earlier decision to turn my life over to God, and none of them had an open faith that they shared with others as a source of reliable comfort, so there had been no discussion of how God might work in my situation. I didn't have a church, though I had gone to Sunday school as a child, and I didn't know that I could effectively read and understand the Bible now that the Holy Spirit was present within. I didn't even know how my earlier decision had distinctively made me a Christian. There was so much I needed to learn about the Lord, and many changes I needed in my perspective about the standard for living that is presented throughout scripture. I was now made righteous in Christ, not by my own ability to be righteous or even good. The Lord was going to continue working behind the scenes for me because
"the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord."
All that I might have judged to be either good or bad things happening to me over the next one and a half to two years could actually be worked to the Lord's glory by Him.

I became more confident and competent on the job with various assistive techniques and devices for sight loss, and I started to get involved in activities to learn more about the blind community. I began attending meetings of a local group for the blind, and this eventually led me into membership in the Springfield Lions Club that sponsored the monthly social meetings for the blind group. I began to date, considering that it might be good to find a partner for life so we could share our lives together. Through this period I did not know that the Lord was working in my heart to increase my desire to know Him through a deeper personal relationship. In August 1975 the Superintendent was promoted to a new staff position, and I was then promoted from Assistant Superintendent, to Superintendent of the Wastewater Treatment Plant for the City of Springfield. The Lord was again working in my behalf, but I was not yet aware enough to give to Him the praise for what He was doing.

Meanwhile on a parallel track, completely without my knowledge, Carolyn Bonnell had a blind roommate in college. Through that friend she met a blind couple in Springfield, and they were part of the local blind group I had recently joined. Carolyn graduated from Cedarville College and began teaching in the Springfield area in the fall of 1975. This blind couple, the Normans, decided that mike and Carolyn should meet, so they invited us both to lunch on a Sunday afternoon in November. Yes, this was a "blind" blind date! Carolyn and Chet's guide dog were the only ones with normal eyesight. We became acquainted over several hours at the Norman's apartment, and then Carolyn offered to drive me back to my apartment. We talked and listened to music until she was ready to go to the evening service at her church. She asked if I wanted to go with her, and I saw no reason to refuse having additional time with her! That began a string of continuous Sundays that I attended church with Carolyn. Now the Lord was quietly working again, this time to provide the relationship of other Christians in a local church to promote my spiritual growth. Since Carolyn was convinced that I was truly born again (a predetermined requisite for her), she accepted my proposal for marriage in February of 1976 with a projected July wedding date. In April I was baptized and became a member of the church, and on July 17th that year Carolyn and I were married by our pastor.

So how does this all tie in with navigating a new life? Well, as I had learned at the rehab center for sight loss, a major component for successful travel (navigation) for a visually impaired person is to have good orientation to the area of travel before applying the specialized techniques. It is much easier to anticipate and deal with obstacles and hindrances when you have good advance information about the terrain. This is also true of the dangers of traveling in a world littered with obstacles of temptation and the hindrance of sin, and we all begin our journey of life spiritually blind and with sin that must be forgiven. Doing many good deeds, having an abundance of religious knowledge, or even holding a position of religious authority and honor before men does not deal with spiritual blindness. Isaiah spoke of the blind minds of those who had lost the special blessings that were intended for the children of Israel through faith.
Isaiah 59 "9 Therefore is judgment far from us, neither does justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. 10 We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men."
Until I accepted my physical blindness and made adaptations I could not adequately deal with it; and until a person accepts the fact that they are spiritually blind, they cannot have those eyes opened by saving faith in Christ Jesus.
John 9 "39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said to him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you should have no sin: but now you say, We see; therefore your sin remains."

I began to take in more of God's Word through the solid teaching and preaching of our local church, and I obtained a set of 33 rpm records free to blind individuals courtesy of the American Bible Society. It probably took about a year for me to listen to the excellent recording of the King James Bible as read by Alexander Scourby. The total recording time is 72 hours, but I had to schedule that time in with my job and family responsibilities. I began listening more to Christian radio for music and various other Christian content programs, and even began to build up our personal music collection with Christian music. My next Bible (a gift from Carolyn's parents) was the NIV Bible on a set of 48 cassette tapes which was much more convenient to listen to on the Library of Congress variable speed tape player. I read through the entire Bible in just four months, and found the modern language of the NIV more readily understandable. Reading the Bible personally, listening to expository and exegetical teaching and preaching, and interacting as part of the body of Christ, are key components to that which the apostle Paul terms as "renewing the mind." Christian music also ministers to us through a soothing media that can direct our thoughts more toward God and His many blessings.

Our first son Tom was born in 1978, and Shaun was born in 1981. I gradually needed to make decisions about my available time, so in the early 1980's I left the Lions Club, then the local and national organizations of the blind: because I held offices of responsibility in each of these. My first Christian tract "The Lost and The Gospel" was written and printed in March 1982 and my personal testimony tract "Being Blind Improved My Life" was printed in December 1983. I am so thankful that the Lord God has provided His Word and the fellowship of other believers so the Christian has the navigation tools needed to chart and follow Him until our time on earth is completed. These are inexhaustible resources for the Christian in the continually changing course of life.
Isaiah 42 "5 Thus said God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; he that gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. 8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images."
Amen and amen!

Revised 11 August 2019 | first Published August 2007