Column: A little more give, a little less take.

Thursday, January 5, 2012 Logout | My Account | NEW SUBSCRIPTION

As we all sit down to make our New Year’s resolutions for 2012. We all hope we can keep, at least one of them in my case. For many of us we have a sudden urge at the beginning of a new year to start fresh and take care of ourselves and others.

For some reason the holidays come around and the New Year starts and we all feel like being a little more generous. I started thinking about this, with the help of a blind friend of mine from Utah, and how that can relate to blind people.

For thousands of years, even from biblical times, a common image of a blind person has been that of a blind beggar.

That’s the first thing I ever heard about a blind person, the story of the blind beggar seeking money and food. It continues to be in a large number of countries, and that includes the United States, the image that comes to mind for many.

For many, many years blind people have been the recipients of people’s generosity. It’s not uncommon for blind people or blindness related organizations to be on the receiving end of fundraising events and charity drives.

Now I’m not saying this is totally wrong, in fact I have been on the side of asking people to help donate to organizations and groups of the blind that are important to me. However, I think there is a change in the air and more and more blind people are now on the other side of charitable giving.
For me, and many of my blind friends, participating in fundraising or charity events for our communities, organizations (local and national), environmental projects, after school clubs, can food drives, gift collections and other charitable causes is a large part of our lives. Many of my good friends are part of the Peace Corps, volunteer organizations, political campaigns, the United Way and many, many other groups that I could never list them all.

This shift is already under way but it’s also important, for us as blind people, to step up and be willing to give back when there is a call for help. It’s also important for members of our communities to think twice about not including us in projects that come up.

For many there may be a hesitancy in knowing what exactly to do with a blind person. This is a normal feeling but one that needs to be altered. Blind people come equipped with a variety of talents and contributions and can bring a whole lot to your fundraising or community campaign.
Recently I participated in an event here in Ruston to benefit the Junior Auxiliary of Ruston.
We, the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana North Central Chapter, wanted to host an event for meet the blind month but more importantly we wanted to do something to show we were invested in the community that is Ruston. We decided to do a charity fashion show. When the all-blind member committee started meeting, and assignments started to be handed out, I was amazed to see the diversity in talents that each member brought to the table.

We had people who were great at socializing and mingling that did great work with advertising, we had people who were excellent with sound and technology that helped with music, lighting, videography and sound.

We had those who had planned similar events in the past who were great at organizing people. We had those who knew about graphic design to help design tickets, programs and flyers. We even had a blind artist design our event logo.

It was amazing and impressive the amount of diverse talent in the room. We were able to pull off our event and raise more than $800 for our charity of choice. It was great for me to be a part of as even I was skeptical of all us blind people pulling off such an event. I’m not so skeptical anymore.
There’s a job for any of us when it comes to volunteering and doing charitable work, the same is for people who are blind and visually impaired.

Next time you hold an event, a fundraiser, an auction, a project, ask that blind person you may know if and how they would like to contribute. You may be pleasantly surprised that they can be a great addition to your project.

Stay strong and keep those resolutions my friends; do something for someone else and I think 2012 will be the best year ever.

Deja M. Powell is programs manager at the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University and a 2008 alumna of the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston. She writes a monthly column for the Daily Leader.

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