82: Seeing My Purpose

82: Seeing My Purpose

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Seeing My Purpose

Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.

~Washington Irving

My friend ran to me in the parking lot, gripped my arm and shook it with excitement. “You won’t believe what I just read,” she said. “There’s a doctor in California with a procedure to restore some sight for people like you.”

People like me? I’m blind, that’s true. And, to my joy, I am surrounded with friends who look out for me and hope to help out. But I wonder why most assume that the highest priority is to see again? The truth is I have so many other things at the top of my “want” list.

My friend tapped my hand. “After all these years, don’t you at least want to try?”

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll check my schedule.”

We both laughed.

That night, in the silence of my room, a thought fluttered in. What had changed in me? Years ago when I lost my sight completely and my sons were three, five, and seven, I would have done anything for a cure. In fact, desperate and anxious, I did that very thing — tried every supplement, experimental trial, vitamin, diet, and anything anyone suggested. All for nothing.

But now, after twenty-five years of living in physical darkness, my life is brighter than ever. The change began one day, many years ago, when my sons were in school and my husband was at work. I had put the last cereal bowl in the dishwasher. And as it sometimes happened, without warning, my blindness reminded me of the life change I never wanted. I took sips from the cup of self-pity, swallowing gulps of “poor me” and wondering what my future would hold. Then, the doorbell rang. I groped for the hallway wall to follow it to the front door. “Yes?” I asked.

“Hey Janet, it’s Mary,” the voice said.

She came in and we chatted. But the great thing was that she brought an idea with her. “Did you ever think about working as an interpreter?” she said. “You speak Spanish. Go for it.”

Her idea prompted me to make a phone call. And the interpreting company I contacted invited me to take a test. Thank goodness it was oral.

“We’re so impressed with the results,” the receptionist said the next day, “that we want to send you on your first assignment tomorrow. It’s in the Immigration and Naturalization Court.”

I gave a silent gasp.

That was the beginning. That was when I began to focus on possibilities where my blindness wouldn’t get in the way. The view of my world had changed. Blindness didn’t have to label me as unproductive. On the contrary, the lack of sight enhanced my ability to retain information and render a quicker and more accurate interpretation.

The letters from judges and attorneys, praising me for my work, rewarded me for the hours and hours I’d spent studying, memorizing, and practicing.

Blindness? Not a handicap anymore. Instead, it became a handy tool to sharpen my creativity. Not only in the courtroom, but at home, in my relationships and in the way I viewed myself.

So often, while cooking on the stove, I’d burned myself, and frustration seared each time. But now, with a different and renewed outlook, I quickly grab a wooden spoon to reach for the hot pots. When placing items in the pantry, I put one rubber band around cans of fruit, two rubber bands around cans of soup, etc. I do the same with boxes.

When doing the laundry I place one staple on the label of my oldest son’s shirt, two on my middle son’s and leave the youngest son’s shirt as is. Then, when folding the laundry, I can easily know which shirt belongs to whom.

Following recipes was difficult, but when they were my own, the task was easier.

While my sons romp in the kitchen, I grab two potholders and lift the casserole dish. Then, with slow, careful steps, I head for the table. “Look out, hot stuff coming.”

I lift the lid. “Guys, you need to try at least a little bit,” I say. “Mom fixed a new recipe.”

I ask my husband to purchase healthy ingredients so I can try my own recipes. Some are popular and others become my lunch for days.

“Sit here,” my husband said as he guided me to the computer chair. “Press some keys and listen. It repeats what you’re typing.”

The software he installed on our computer read the screen. And through a robotic voice, I heard what I keyed in — words, phrases, and paragraphs of any length. And with additional key commands, I navigated through various applications.

A new world had opened up for me!

With the same passion I used to care for my sons, I learned how to use this new technology with ease. I began to write.

The words I strung together ended up as journaling at first. Then, the stories I wrote seemed to inspire others. I wrote some more and the longer pieces became chapters. And with insights, humor, and fun stories, my first book was created.

“I felt like I was freed from a cage,” a reader wrote. “Your story helped me to find my own freedom.”

One day I got a phone call from a state agency. “Would you consider coming to our group and giving an inspirational talk?”

I did. And that was the beginning of my speaking ministry. Now I give presentations to crowded churches and impart insights to professional groups. And while at home, I teach ladies’ Sunday school.

So, should I follow through with my friend’s suggestion to go for that procedure to potentially regain some sight?

I’ll have to remember what my passion has become — not to see again, but to look for ways to inspire others. I use my energy to find ways to put a bit of encouragement into the lives of those who have physical sight but are blind to their potential.

When I travel across the country and abroad, my white cane and I meet folks who always want to know, “Were you born blind?”

I smile. That’s my clue to begin my story, to start the dialogue and ask them questions. Most often, their lives seem dark like mine used to be. And delight fills me when I bring a little brightness to their day by pointing out that “seeing” our troubles with the eyes of sadness blinds us from seeing what life could be.

Years ago, I wondered what had happened to happiness. Then I realized I held it in my heart. What happened to joy? I choose it each day. And what happened to purpose? I live it each moment.

And what happened to my hunger for a cure? I changed it for the passion to help heal others from defeat and discouragement.

~Janet Perez Eckles

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