Where Did My Friends Go


Where Did My Friends Go

     "Well yeah, I'll step up…Ah, I mean, here I sit feeling pretty frustrated, lonely and if I tell the truth a little scared. Cause, not only have I lost most of my sight, but I seem to have lost most of my friends, too, and I don't understand it." Said Larry. He was the first of the group of severely visually impaired individuals to speak up and answer that day's topic question, "Where did my friends go?"

     "Totally…" Jumped in Bonnie, "Go blind and you find out who your real friends are!"

     The general stir among the dozen people in the group of peers indicated to all that this topic struck a universal cord. They had been meeting for several sessions and had gotten comfortable sharing in this setting. Individually they had gone through the usual set of feelings a person has when facing a group of strangers and over the course of their meetings had accepted the mix of personalities that made up the character of the group. Now they needed little guidance to get their feelings out and flowing.

     "Can you believe it…" spoke up Kelly a woman that the group knew had ten siblings, "Even your own brothers and sisters can blow you off! Like, I use to be the first to step up when one of my family needed a babysitter or one of their kids needed a ride to a ball game and their parents couldn't take them. And now that I can't drive, do you think I get a call to see if I need help with transportation?"

     "Yeah, I've got the same thing with this sorority I belong to." Said Sara. "Back in college I was all idealistic, wanted to change the world, you know, make a difference. So I go through the initiation to join this group and you should have seen it. We had this big ceremony, holding candles, said all these memorized lines, pledging all these life-long commitments and felt really touchy-feely about sisterhood and all that. And can you believe it, now when I can no longer see their faces, I don't see them!"

     "Well, not to only talk on the negative side of all this with friends." Threw in Janet. "But how many of you when you do see a friend, they get all pity-eyed on you and want to do everything for you? Stuff that you can do for yourself and don't need help with!"

     "Or try this on for size." Volunteered James. "Just yesterday I was out for a walk, met up with a neighbor, we were standing there, talking. And you know how some of us can still see some things? Well there I was, can't see this guy's face, but with my peripheral vision I see this metal object on the edge of the sidewalk, obviously a coin shining with reflective sunlight. So I reach down, pick it up, it's a dime and I hand it to the guy. He says, 'You're not blind, you can see better than me!"

     "Oh yeah, talking about not seeing people's faces! What about those times when a friend accuses you of being stuck up, because they tell you they drove by or maybe waved from across the room and you didn't acknowledge them!" Added in Leslie.

     "Okay guys." Interjected that day's discussion leader. "A lot has been thrown out here. We've identified a bunch of problems, the symptoms as it were, but how about getting down to the cause and more importantly the solutions?"


e-mail responses to newmanrl@cox.net

**1. I've started to write a response to this provoker, several times. But, it's
so difficult. I don't know what the answer is.

On one hand, we have to try to be as active as possible and stay involved in
our communities, churches, civic organizations, etc. But, even when we are
out there, it seems that our interaction is still tenuous.

People are still afraid of blindness and, I'm not sure why, but their
attitude toward a person who has recently lost sight, is very cool.

I have a neighbor who lost his sight about six years ago. He's a gentleman
in his early 70s. He's lived in the same area all his life, has a lot of
friends in his church, family, neighbors, and former co-workers. But, when
he lost his sight, even family began to treat him differently. He's an
amazing gentleman. He motivated himself to learn Braille, get rehab
training, learn to use a cane and a computer. So, he's come a long way in
the past six years. But, there are still people at his church who talk more
loudly when they address him, ask his wife questions, rather than
approaching him, or speak to him as though he was a child. The only thing
which has changed about Bill is that he can't see. His personality is the
same; his willingness to help others hasn't changed, and his interest in
life is still there.

We can educate the public about blindness, and we have made a lot of
progress. But, I don't really know what we can do to insure that our
friends stay around.

As I said at the beginning of my response, I don't have any answers. That
leaves me, at the end, of my writing, feeling as though there's still more
to say. There probably is, but I just don't know what that might be.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**2. a wise person once told me, I think it was my dear mother actually, by the time we die, if we have one friend left from all the so called closest, bestest,
and dearest friends we had in our life times, we are doing good. Friends come and go, they pledge their undying loyalty and stick by your sidedness, but
just like fads, friends come and go. Think about it, remember your best friend in high school, the one you talked to day and night in and out of school,
the one you thought you could not live without? Where are they now? People are all guilty of being fair weathered and if we admit it or not, so are we.
The problem is however, that going blind, losing sight, or any type of disability crisis, makes us ultra aware and sensitive to people's short comings
and therefore, when someone disappoints us or fails us emotionally, it brings dealing with the current loss to the surface and right out in front, it
has to be the fault.
I know how everyone in that story felt, I have had it done too, but if we think about some stuff for a while, it all comes into the light, it comes full

Just my thought on this story,
your friend in Buffalo, Maria

**3. The first thing that strikes me about this group is that all of the comments come from newly blinded individuals. The comments relate to a former life,
and in some ways, another person. Those of us who have endured visual impairments since birth have dealt with a limited number of friends all of our lives.

In my experience, friendships are the result of proximity, shared experiences, or common goals and interests. Losing ones sight can alter many of those
situations. Even fully sighted people who work side by side for thirty years seldom see one another once their work ends. Close neighbors lose contact
if one moves away.

True friendship is a rare occurrence. These people are coming to realize that those they once considered to be friends were nothing more than acquaintances.
Blindness allows you the opportunity to realize who is your real friend. Treasure those who remain faithful.


**4. I have gradually lost my eyesight over the last few years, however, I find myself in the opposite situation of the people in the provoker. I made two of
the best friends I ever had during law school and they definitely do not have any pity on me and for that I am thankful.

I also have not lost any friends as a result of my blindness, but have no doubt that this does happen more often than any of us would like. Will be interested
to see what others have to say on the subject.

John Ramsey Ft. White, FL

**5. I don't have many friends because too many people seem to be afraid of me due to the blindness. That is why I think it is important for organizations of
the blind to be friendly to each other and become friends, if possible. So many say they're in it for the political goings-on, blindness only, but we
need to be more than that to each other.

Lauren Washington USA

**6. Robert, this one really hit a cord with me. I've experienced both the good and the bad where this topic is concerned. Wow, where do I start?
I'll start with the story that has stayed with me in the most profound and long-lasting ways. It was the wife of a friend that I had known well since High
School, and a couple with whom my first wife and I spent a good deal of time.
Dan and I had been founding members of a Car Club in the town we grew up in, and had been very involved in the organization of several Car Shows, and all
of this in the early days of my vision loss. You see, I began to lose vision at 21, ran out of pictures at about 34 and had the lights go out all-together
at 42.
This first event happened right about the time that I picked up the white cane, which was around the time that the pictures went out and when my first marriage
ended. I had been walking up the main street toward the bus stop and apparently Georgina, Dan's wife passed me on the sidewalk without saying hello, boo,
kiss my ass or goodbye.
Of course I was unaware of this chance passing, but she did tell me about it the next time we had occasion to speak. Oddly enough, it happened to be at
a Car Club meeting. She came to me and said that she had walked past me on the street a week or so earlier, but that she thought I was concentrating on
what I was doing and where I was going so opted to not disturb me. That means she didn't even say hello, something she couldn't have gotten away with
if I were sighted.
I felt weird about this at the time, but I couldn't put my finger on why I felt that way. I was new at this blindness game then and had spent no time with
other blind people to that point. However I did manage to think about it throughout the meeting that evening, and by the end of it had sorted out some
of my feelings around the event. I don't think I heard much of what went on in the meeting, nor did I participate. At the end of it though I approached
Georgina and said, likely in a less than complimentary way, that what she had done to me the previous week was completely unfair, and that I will be sure
to ignore her as well the next time I notice her in my vicinity.
Now, don't get me wrong, I no longer teach people "what you do when you meet a blind person" in this way. I have determined that you'll get much farther
if you help them to understand why that was wrong instead of using sarcasm to shame them into changing their behaviours.
To make a short story long, there are some of my friends of old who are no longer in the picture, and I am sorry to announce that some of it may be due
to how I have reacted to situations like this. They might have been saved had I opted for a better teaching tool, but thankfully Dan and Georgina aren't
some of those casualties.
The very good friends though show themselves in times like this. My very best friend in the world dragged me onto a roof one day against my loud protests.
My brother and many of our friends were re-roofing a cedar shake roof, and the ladies had prepared huge pots of soup and platters of sandwiches in the
kitchen. Once their work was done the women headed off to town saying they'd be back in time for lunch, which left me in the kitchen stirring the soup.
After-all, there's no way a blind person should be on a shake roof. It's way too dangerous isn't it?
Well, Silvia came back to the house in advance of the others and caught me in the kitchen instead of on the roof with the other fellows. She then grabbed
me by my shirt collar and forced me up the latter, the whole while shouting orders to her husband to find me a nail pouch and to cut me a couple of measuring
sticks. Orders to which he obviously jumped immediately. It's the only prudent thing to do in such circumstances.
In fact, my appearance on the roof moved all the fellows into action ensuring that the roof remained clean of scrap wood. This was undoubtedly done for
my safety, but the side benefit was that the job was safer for all concerned. I did work that entire day hammering nails into shakes, always making sure
to stay away from the edges. It was indeed the beginning of many learning experiences thanks to a good friend, and I've tried since then to remain open
to every such opportunity.
Of course I too have run into all of the situations you're story depicts. The secret to survival is to get over them quickly and to seek opportunities
to teach rather than to insult the people, thereby losing them forever. Remember an old Chinese proverb that says, "Tell me and I'll likely forget, show
me and I may remember, but involve me and I will understand". After-all that's all we really want isn't it? And we'll get more of it with sugar than
with vinegar.

Thx, Albert Ruel: Victoria BC Canada, on an Island in the Pacific

**7. This whole story brought memories flooding back of when I went from child hood to adolescence to adulthood. As a child I had several play mates one of
them moved, and when I was twelve twins I had been friends with since the age of seven moved. I still had a play mate Janice and a few other sighted girl
Then my teen years hit and the social expectations of my soon to be former girl friends changed. I was viewed as "different, not only because of blindness
but because of my new seizure disorder. I often would ask Mom why certain people did not call. The attitude of blossoming teens was "they did not want
to be seen with some one who was "Different." Hurt I began to get used to my new social environment, I had friends from school I still retained a few friend
ships, until in early adult hood one of the girls married so we did not see each other any more. During my adult years I have had few sighted friends.

I feel a mixture of mild resentment and acceptance. I think the problem is both cultural, and attitudinal. for centuries blind people have been viewed
as helpless antivenin a totally dark world. Jesus healed a blind man, and perhaps he had more insight. In a church the man had asked for his sight and
the nun said be careful what u ask for. She talked about how we mentally can see faults or are blind to them. Until the twentieth century, little was
known about the accomplishments of blind folks. Most people still think of us as sitting at home needing continual help. Because of blindness organizations
and more jobs we are changing this attitude. But I think like other people with handicaps most people still f view us with a mixture of fear and pity.
They think as they get older "I hope I never lose my sight." To them that would be synonymous with loss of all privacy and independence. We who are blind
Catch our selves thinking "I hope I do not lose my hearing or my ability to walk." To us that world is as different as blindness is to a sighted person.
I do think we have more understanding and tolerance, but as for most people they still find it hard to deal with disability. I feel sorry for those people
because they are missing out. They are missing out on beautiful relationships because of there fear of blindness. I do not know if that fear will totally
diminish in our life time.
Some of us have promoted that fear by acting more helpless than we a really are. As we get older we realize this attitude does not gain us attention.

We often fail to live up to our full potential, because of ingrained attitudes by parents. More and more the strides we have made are being pulled out from
under us because of the government, making some of us hesitant to work for fear of losing financial benefits. The specter of "The blind that are very
poor is coming back to haunt us despite all the strides we have made in the past forty years. There are positive steps being made computers and cell phones
that talk GPs systems that talk and perhaps some day cars that drive them selves. Experiments are being tried out in the state of California toward this
goal. I say God bless all of you.

friend ship Karen Crowder.

**8. When you become blind your friends and associates do not know what to do
because they become afraid of you.
They become afraid of you because they afraid to become in contact with

You have to become a teacher and they are pupils.

Like for example, Hey Sam look go to the store. Let me show you how we
travel. You open the door to start the process of become less afraid of
handling you.

How did you react to something first time. Was not you afraid. That what
your friends and associates look what did I do.

After you have them help you several times they get over being afraid of

Especially men helping men.

Dexter Terry Blind-X listserv

**9. I'm familiar with the comments made by the people in this Provoker. In fact, I experienced pretty much the same reactions when I lost my vision when I
was 8 years old. Prior to the accident, I had lots of friends, but with the accident, they became like smoke. It didn't take much to get them to disappear.
I really don't remember thinking much about it at the time, but expect that their disappearance may have been due to a combination of parental fear and
their own. Of course, my own behaviors and reactions may have something to do with it. I'm sure that I didn't feel vary capable and my parents probably
thought the same. As for the speakers in the Provoker group, I wonder if the loss of friends may have been effected by the group member's level of adjustment
and self-image. Generally, people tend to avoid situations that cause stress. How many times have we avoided people because they tended to be negative
or usually were in need of something? I feel that an honest examination of the comments of the group's members must include a self-examination, as well
as a look at why former friends seemed to leave. As the one persons suggested, even her family had a tendency to pull back and consider her less than
competent. I must question if she was portraying that image to them.
On the other hand, we all know that people are products of society's teachings. Why else do people who become disabled, have such a hard time adjusting?
Many of those friends and family members are likely dealing with their own prejudicial beliefs. One way to handle the situation is to become appropriately
adjusted ourselves and successful. After all, our behaviors should influence those around us. Perhaps another way to look at it, is that we may lose
our old friends, but make others who accept us as we are, instead of how they think we should be.

Doug Hall Daytona Beach, Florida

**10. New THOUGHT PROVOKER- Where Did My Friends Go
It's my family I don't seem to have because of my disabilities. Lonely, oh yes.


**11. I have been legally blind for over 50 years & completely blind for about the last 10 or 12 years. I am a retired accountant, aged 73 years & try to stay
active in my retirement. I have hobbies (creative writing & woodworking), travel the world, and have many friends-some very close & others acquaintances
with whom I am friendly. I work very hard at being independent and I do not hesitate to chastise other blind people who are constantly whining and remain
at the "pity party."
I feel that the "political correctness" movement has a lot to do with this problem, but mostly, the blind person bears the responsibility. The guy who
found the coin should have taken the time (as opposed to offense) to tell his neighbor about his condition. The girl whose family doesn't offer help should
probably ask for help and not expect people to fall all over themselves to offer help. As a blind person, you have to take charge of your life and assume
responsibility. Relationships have to be developed, whether with friends or family. This is true for sighted as well as for blind people. It is up to
the blind person to make others comfortable with his blindness. My favorite way of doing this when I encounter people is to avoid the usual "good to see
you" and substitute "good to hear you again." That always draws a laugh and eases the tension. I make no demands on friends & family, but I am not too
proud to ask for help when needed. I think this group leader was right on target when he suggested identifying the problem, and I think this group would
take a major step in that direction if they collectively took a look in a mirror!

Jim Theall Longmont, Colorado. Email:

**12. This is very much like experiencing a loss of a person, except it's loss of another kind, and a different kind of grief. Sight will be missed. We grieve
in our own ways, and many times, family, friends, etc. don't know how to be there for us in our grieving. For instance, when we want to talk about the
person who died, everyone assumes it's best not to talk, or to avoid, when talking and facing the loss is the best healer.
I really wonder if it isn't as much of an issue of losing friends, as much as it is that friends, family, have no idea whatsoever to do, how to act or react,
etc. To add to the difficulty, newly-blinded persons are trying to find out their identity and how to help those same friends cope. They have enough
on their plate learning to deal with blindness themselves, let alone help others.
I'm sure there are going to be, unfortunately, some people who are shallow enough to take off, but I believe many would be glad to be a friend if they just
knew how to feel, what to do or not to do, etc.

Judy Jones

**13. As this thought-provoker shows, people, even friends and family members, have various ways of reacting to blindness. It seems like the blind person becomes
a different person in peoples' eyes and that hurts. I could remember going to a convention with a friend of mine who seemed to have everything together.
But she developed some kind of crippling disease and had to spend her time at the convention in a wheelchair. As a blind person, I even viewed her differently
and I hate to say it, as imperfect and flawed--the way I sometimes saw myself. I think that blindness makes other people aware that there could be weakness
in the world and reminds them of their vulnerabilities.
The solution would be for these newly blinded person to discuss some of these topics with their friends if their friends are around. They should let them
know how they feel and how disappointed they are that things have changed. An honest interchange and maybe some practice in blindness skills could help
to equalize the relationship.

Mary Jo Partyka

**14. Wow this one hits me where I live! I had a stroke my husband was also my
best friend he ran like a dog with his tail on fire! He said he didn't want
a disabled wife! I survived then friends disappeared didn't return calls or
visit after I became mobility impaired. OK I made lots of new friends Who
dumped me when I became legally blind due to diabetes. I moved again to get
away from all the memories of former friends and familiar places. Am about
to move once more were people know me from my work as an advocate for the
disabled, now I hear you can't do that your blind and you see more than you
say I am tired of defending myself it's not worth the stress. You asked were
does this attitude come from didn't you? It comes from fear that one day
they will become disabled too, rather than face it they ignore you
pretending they don't know you or that these disabilities come mostly from

Diane Victoria BC Canada

**15. This TP I understand but first I must say, it is not all bad! I will state
a few instances that being blind was a "pain".

We invited a couple over to play Uno with us. He is also legally blind from
macular degeneration. I was surprised to hear that Now, since he can not
see much, they are never invited to play games. It used to be they were
always included in a group of a half dozen couples but now they are seldom
included. Well, I for one enjoy their company. He does not read any
Braille but with his lighted magnifier, manages quite well. Might be a
little slow at times but that is fine with us! He does not talk about not
being included with the others often, but I feel the hurt/pain in his voice.
For me, playing Uno with others was never hampered by going
blind. First I got a stronger light, then my wife would mark the color with
a large black felt pen. When this was no longer easy for me to see I told
my family/friends I'd stop playing but that I would watch them. This
decision was soundly defeated with such a statement as, "either you play or
no one plays!" So, I had to find a way & that was by learning enough
Braille to get by!

Before my eyesight diminished, I was often ask to help other people in
moving, construction or whatever help they needed. Other people in return
helped me when I needed help. Today, although I offer, I am rejected! I
still can lift! I still can carry objects but my offer to help is politely
refused. Also, most of the time if I ask for help to do a job I can do but
just need another person, I will be soundly but usually gently pushed aside
& I am the helper, doing very little. So I will usually find a way to do
the job without asking for help.

One day while in a hospital to see my surgeon, my wife & I walked down the
hall, heading for a small restroom we knew of where we could both go in.
Then I heard a lady saying over & over, "Oh, I am so sorry, I am so sorry!"
I wanted to ask, what are you sorry for, ? but kept walking & remained
quiet, my white cane tapping out as I walked. My wife said the lady was
wringing her hands as she pitied me.

I have one comment in defense of the sighted. Many, blind are like me,
trying to hide our blindness, especially in the early years of being blind.
We try to look sighted, not admitting to anyone that our vision is nearly
gone. We refuse to use the long white cane for this will label us as being
blind! Though we could use a guide dog, we refuse, stating, "let
those who really need a guide dog have them. I don't want to deny one who
"really" needs a guide dog." Or am I the only one who did this? When it
finally became known to my church family that I was already legally blind,
several whom I knew well came to me & said, "Now I understand but I thought
you were stuck up, for several times we waved & you never paid us any
attention. Now we know!"

My only answer to the many problems we, the blind have, is to keep
educating the sighted world we live in. We can change people, one at a
time! Oh yes, all too often I feel I am getting nowhere in this task but
then someone will come up to me & tell me how he understands the blind
better now! So, lets keep at this educating, one person at a time!

Have a good day
Ernie Jones Walla Walla Washington

**16. You struck a chord, which is all too common for us blind folks. I am blind and this one should have been Where did my family and friends go, because we
are also abandoned by family as well. As I myself age, I find it harder and harder to find real friends in this world. When my mother passed on in 1991,
my family drifted away from me. While I handled my mother's estate, my family ignored me, did not even check on me to see how I was doing or anything.
They did not want me at the funeral because of my blindness. It's stupid, but a number of my mother's friends were left out, too, and that really hurt.
My mother's younger sister left me with a phonebook way out of date and took my mother's currently used phonebook so I could not contact some people I
wanted to contact. They would not take me to the cemetery where she was buried, and they did not want me to know anything. And, fifteen months later,
my fully sighted husband, a lazy bum and gambler, left me. He abandoned me and took everything I owned, once my inheritance was gambled away. He moved
in with other people he met at the casinos. He did not want me to have contact with other blind people and cut me off completely. He was a control freak
who lived off women. As a result, I have no real friends I can turn to. As I age alone, I have become less and less trusting of people because of all
these things. Real friends are harder and harder to come by. I never hear from my longtime friends back East anymore. They are all too busy to bother
with the likes of me. I did nothing to become a pariah. I have come to the conclusion that friendships are fleeting at best and when the chips are down,
all you have left is a handful of memories of the friendships you once had.

Mimi Sacramento, California

**17. This one is pretty good, offering different perspectives on the same topic. Hopefully, I as a sighted person can offer mine, and be relevant about it.
First question: "Where did my friends go?" I learned through bitter experience that a person can sometimes be a true friend IN SPITE of your circumstances.
A false "friend" will ditch you, if you don't meet their standards of "perfection." In one sense, I can understand this, though I don't agree with it.
After all, Hollywood offers up an impossible standard of "beauty," which requires that most (if not all) actresses will NOT wear glasses on TV! For example,
did you know that when Barbara Eden was doing "I Dream of Jeannie," she was legally blind? Yes! Her vision was around 20/600 or 20/800, and she had to
memorize the sets, because she could barely see them! How would she look in a genie costume, topped off by coke bottles? It would "shatter the illusion"! I
would challenge ANYONE to find a pretty actress on TV, who wears glasses every week!
That false standard is impossible to achieve. I don't know ANYONE who doesn't need corrective lenses! I know I was self-conscious when I had to get glasses,
because kids would say "FOUR EYES!" But that was better than using toy binoculars to read the chalkboard.
So, if a shallow-minded person reacts that way to mere nearsightedness, then they're going to be TOTALLY grossed out by blindness! It's "Social Darwinism,"
made worse by Hollywood fantasy.
This idea of "mixed personalities" and "getting their feelings out" brings up my own issues with the blind. I understand perfectly well that a newly-blind
person should have some kind of counseling, if he thinks he needs it. And there's no better way to do that than to restrict conversation to a peer group
of other blind people. We must admit that we DO feel better when we talk to others who share our crisis, regardless of what it is. As one wise man put
it, "The Lord hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I may learn to speak a word in season to him that is weary." Quite a number of angry blind
men have yelled at me, saying, "WE DON'T NEED YOU! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE!" But a blind "peer" DOES know, and people find comfort in common ground.
Admit it.
BUT! That said, I must point out the inherent UNFAIRNESS and CONTRADICTION of blind people who complain that "sighted people don't know what it's like."
True, we don't. So why don't you TEACH US, and do it PATIENTLY? I had never seen a blind person in my life until I was well into my 30s. Ever since I began
studying this subject, I have tried my best to treat blind people with kindness, dignity, and respect. Yet I got comparatively little in return. No matter
how hard I tried, I just could not make many friends. Did I screw up on occasion? Yes. Guilty as charged. But in this talk about sighted "friends" ditching
you, you are admitting that there needs to be a level of understanding. Ideally, YOU should think, "Okay, he screwed up. He's ignorant. He doesn't understand
the protocols. Let's teach him, and we can move on together." Hey, you're blind, I'm sighted; but neither of us are lepers

Now, Kelly brings up another big issue. She says, "Now that I can't drive, do you think I get a call to see if I need help with transportation?" Well,
I had brought up that point several months ago on an NFB list, and was shocked by the reaction. Here's what happened.

Around last December, a middle-aged blind woman complained about a lack of reliable transportation to church. I was on her list (I repeat: WAS), so I
responded, "If I were there, I'd be more than happy to give you a ride."
Now, fast-forward to last February. It seems that a VERY angry blind man had an issue with me. I have no idea why. I tried to e-mail him, but he blocked
me. I don't know what I ever did to make him so mad, but that man saw fit to smear my name all over the Internet! The icing on the cake was that issue
about transportation! He actually used my offer AGAINST me! He said, "Ooh, Mr. L. offered an old, blind lady a RIDE! He must be some kind of weirdo!"
That is a DIRECT QUOTE, people!
And it didn't end there, either! This man took many things that I wrote, twisted them out of shape, and painted me as some kind of two-headed FREAK!
He was personally responsible for having me kicked off several lists, even though I have NEVER done ANYTHING harmful or even offensive to any blind person.
(Unless, of course, that person happened to be a sociopath!) I got several apologetic e-mails from some kinder, gentler blind folks who said, "I apologize
on their behalf. You have met what we call 'the Radical Blind.'"
That's why nobody bothers to call Kelly, and ask her if she needs a ride! I have actually offered to VOLUNTEER for the blind, many times. Nobody wanted
me. At BEST, their response was indifferent: "Yeah, whatever, Dave." At WORST, they screamed, "GET LOST! WE DON'T NEED YOUR 'HELP'!"
The whole thing sent me into a pit of depression that lasted well into Spring. I was also scared to death. It got to the point where I was terrified
to talk to a blind person. Even now, I feel as if I must watch my back!

Sara gets in her comment. Her "friends" ditched her, because, "Now when I can no longer see their faces, I don't see them!" But this is one reason I
believe my only chance to make friends IS with blind people, because they WON'T see my face!

The problem is, with depression comes sleep deprivation. On a good night, I'm lucky to get four hours. Then I get up and study for four hours, and work
for ten or twelve. When I go to work, I am already dead tired, and look like death warmed over! My supervisor keeps bugging me about it. He says, "Dave,
why do you look so angry?" I answer, "I'm not angry. I'm TIRED!"
Therefore, I figured, logically, I'd have a better chance of making friends among the blind than among the sighted. I figured circumstances would cause
them to actually LISTEN to me, and not just dismiss me based on outward appearance. You know, come to think of it, I've taken up a study of sign language,
and the instruction book gives an interesting bit of advice. The author said, "When conversing with a deaf person, try to maintain eye contact. But, most
importantly, try to have a CHEERFUL COUNTENANCE! Wear a SMILE!" But that will be the hardest thing for me to learn, because my face reflects 39 years of emotional stress
that cannot be easily hidden. This is one reason why I feel much more comfortable around the blind than the sighted. (Heck, even at WORK, in a grungy FACTORY,
my supervisor complains that I don't dress "stylishly" enough! On a blue-collar job? Please! Sighted people are so shallow!)

Janet takes a different approach. She complains about "pity." Admittedly, this can be a touchy issue, but it can be resolved with simple common sense.
I would reason that, if a blind person is walking around, deep into downtown, then that person must be quite capable of traveling safely, alone. Also,
if a blind person has no bandages or ice packs on his hands, then it can be assumed that he can pour a hot cup of coffee without help. (A lot of these
issues are no-brainers. Sadly, a lot of sighted people do NOT, in fact, have brains.)

On the other hand, conscience, and common human decency, DOES demand that a sighted person offer "help" when they think it may be needed. Remember Thought
Provoker #110: "PAY ATTENTION"? That one involved a blind person who carelessly walked toward an open elevator shaft, and ALMOST fell in. And, as I responded
in that one, I recall a similar debate I had with an "angry blind man." He said, "If I were walking toward a wall, what would YOU do?" I answered, "I would
yell, 'STOP!'" The blind man replied, "Look, dummy, that's what the CANE is for! IT tells me there's a wall there! I DON'T NEED YOUR 'HELP'!"
Again, this is where blind and sighted alike need EACH OTHER. I am concerned for your SAFETY, as any decent human being would be; but YOU need to be
concerned for my SOCIAL STANDING. After all, you wouldn't want me to look like some over-protective idiot, offering "help" where none is needed! But, if
I do make that mistake, then for crying out loud, PLEASE CORRECT ME, but do it NICELY!
James now brings up the scientific fact that "blindness" does NOT always mean "totally black." In fact, I recently had an e-mail exchange with a blind guy,
and he was pleasantly surprised that I knew that! On the other hand, coincidentally, I had a conversation with sighted church members, and told them that
MOST blind people can, in fact, tell if you're wearing light or dark colored clothes. Also, with certain eye diseases, there is just enough vision to see
things directly in front, or to the side. I knew that from studying the issue. You see how PATIENT TEACHING AND LEARNING can clear up a lot of foolish

Finally, Leslie's comments about "not acknowledging people" is just plain stupid. I think part of the use of a cane or guide dog is to tell ignorant
sighted people, "Hey, I'm BLIND, here!" (Kind of like the t-shirt that says, "I'm not deaf, I'm just ignoring you!") But, again, this underlines the need
for blind and sighted to teach EACH OTHER. (Personally, I wouldn't have been offended by this, since people tend to ignore me anyway. I'm kind of used
to it.)

The discussion leader concludes by saying, "How about getting down to the cause and more importantly the solutions?" Well, the answers are simple. The

Am I therefore become your enemy, because I have told you the truth? And, to answer the question, "Where Did My Friends Go?" Well, I guess they just
move away in secret. What I'd like to know is, "Where do friends come FROM in the first place?"

David Lafleche

**18. I've experienced all of these elements while progressing through my retinal disease. It began when I was a baby and slowly took away my visual connection
to the world over a long period of time. So, I've been there, done that. On and off throughout the years I've participated in my own pity parties, and
the person who was responsible for getting me out of every one was ME. Some of my family don't even call me and others always call. Some friends understand
but many don't. My professors at school, kind as they are, say that I'm so capable that they often forget I can't see. They remind me to remind them that
when I'm feeling overwhelmed or out of the loop, to just say so. And I do. My kids and my husband have had to make the adjustments with me and it's been
difficult for all of us. And, probably the most difficult of all are those well-meaning people who just don't get it even after explanations, education,
and tears. I'm also of the mind that one only really needs a handful of reliable friends to encourage me, support me, and just listen when I need it. I
became a therapist because I want to help others move along in the best way possible when faced with life-changing events. I feel that my experiences have
prepared me for this and increased my ability to both find solutions and empathize with my clients. It would take many pages to describe how I found solutions
and how I worked through the paradoxes of blindness, but suffice it to say that without accepting it, I would not be as capable a person.

Ann Chiappetta, M.S.

**19. New THOUGHT PROVOKER- Where Did My Friends go
I've always been visually impaired so I can't say I've lost friends, but I've never had a lot of friends. See I'm not good with the whole nonverbal communication
thing. I'm not even good with facial expressions. So I could never catch those nonverbal cues that might have let me know that someone wanted me to talk
to them or come join their group. And I didn't win any points by not responding when people call my name or say hi as they walk by. But there's a reason
for that. I'm not, as the old myth suggests, able to identify people by their voices because to me most people sound the same. There are some people
that I can identify by voice but that is because they have a very distinct voice. The other problem is that even if I recognize a voice I have a terrible
time remembering people's names so it takes me a while to process it when someone walks by and says hi to me, and by the time I figure out who they are
and what direction the voice was coming from the person is gone. So I look rude or inconsiderate. I'm also shy around people I don't know which makes
it even more difficult for me to make friends. I've always been the person that people come to when they need something, though that is very seldom reciprocated.
I can understand these people's feelings because I've felt like that too. A while ago I decided that I wasn't going to be upset about that anymore. If
someone doesn't want to be friends with me because of my quirks then I don't need them as a friend anyway. Right now there are only three people that I
would call good friends and I am just fine with that. It's not quantity that matters when it comes to friends anyway, it's quality. So if some of their
"friends" don't want to visit them anymore then they were never really friends with them in the first place. Real friends would stick by them no matter

Gina Bunting

**20. Interesting that you chose a support group of singles to illustrate your point. We sighted spouses, it must be remembered, are
affected too when our friends back away.
It's time to bombard TV stations and even computer sites with information about blindness. We need to get the word out that blindness is not a disease,
and it is not catching. We also need to educate the world as to the fact that not all blind people are totally blind. Some 95% of blind people have some
functional sight, and most do NOT walk like Frankenstein, hands held stiffly in front and groping, eyes unfocused and staring blankly.
The only decent thing I've seen on TV with reference to the blind is a mildly humorous commercial about a bathroom faucet. At least it makes a blind man
look like a so-called normal human being who just can't see.

Carolyn Clearwater, FL

**21. I know what that's like. My best friend from elementary school, who used to
come over, take me out places etc, doesn't do any of that anymore. I only
get to talk to her on the phone now, and she only lives four miles away. I
just talked to her on the phone for the first time since July the other day.
She's still my friend, but it's not like it used to be.

People from church are the same way. Most of them don't bother with
me...there's only three people in the whole Ward who pay any attention to

I don't know what to do about it except try and accept it.

jaber37837 NABS-L Listserv

**22. Yes I understand some what you are saying.
A car horn is the same way.
One sounds like another to me.
Or my in laws think if we are outside we are ok.
So they stop from time to time to check in.
They don't learn much but they at least check in.
Twice a year smile.
I am glad you can still see something, but also glad you have met so many

Dar NFBtalk listserv

**23. Where did my friends go? This is an excellent one, but I really don't know what to say. I think much of what has been said is excellent. This is something,
as life goes on, that happens to sighted people too, but I don't think that as blind people the only explanation is that we somehow become more sensitive
to it. I believe it is a real phenomenon, borne of ignorance and fear. People are afraid this is something that might happen to them when they are older,
and with the myths about blindness still around in our culture, this fear is exacerbated, but rather than admit to fear, it is easier to simply walk away
from what is stressing one out. I don't believe for a minute that most sighted people who do this are doing it to be mean or insensitive, it is just what
people often do.
Now, what should we, as blind people, be doing about it? Ultimately, it is our responsibility to help change this for ourselves. Whenever possible, we
can use every opportunity to educate. If someone has developed the courage to ask questions, even what we might think of as stupid questions, answer those
questions courteously and honestly. Let's not pretend that this blindness thing doesn't piss us off sometimes, I would imagine for most of us, that is
not true, especially if one is newly blind. But an honest idea of how we handle things and an admission, to those who are closest to us, that there are
frustrations, is healthier than pretending to the sighted world that nothing is ever wrong. I find that it is sometimes not easy, if someone accuses me
of not really being blind because I walk competently or can reach down and pick up a coin with no trouble, to be entirely civil. You are almost, and in
some cases you may be, actually being accused of lying, and that never feels particularly good. Depending on who that person is, I will either walk away
or, if it is an acquaintance, and I think it is someone who is educable, (and I hate to say it but there are people out there who think they know it all,
who are not educable), I will try to explain to them that most of us who are blind do have some peripheral vision in one or both eyes, that the number
of totally blind people, who see no light at all in either eye, is relatively low.
I also think that our reaching out to the community, either through employment or in other ways, can be a start to changing this problem of having no friends
because of misperceptions about our blindness. I belong to an absolutely wonderful church. Is it perfect? Probably not, although it's pretty wonderful
and inclusive. Do some people in our church need educating? Of course they do, that will happen anywhere. But there is a real sense of inclusion and
a very strong effort by our pastors and other people to include the several of us who are blind. But even here, it seems that it is our responsibility
to be civil, ask for help when we need it, and sign up for committees or gospel choir or whatever. I also do volunteer work with a rape crisis hotline
which has caused me to meet some pretty wonderful people, other volunteers and staff with the rape crisis center.
One other thing. I think it is sometimes too easy to accuse people of indulging in a "pity party." No, we don't want to get into self-pity, certainly not
to wallow in it, that will ultimately get us nowhere, eventually, we must take the bull by the horns. But these newly blinded individuals in that group
had legitimate feelings and needed to air them. Let's not pretend these feelings aren't there sometimes, even though ultimately we need to move beyond
them. And, when we make the mistake of addressing a sighted person rudely because of our own misperceptions of what is happening, I think the best we
can do is apologize to them, when appropriate, and forgive ourselves as well, and maybe share that experience with another close person, sighted or blind
and get perspective. We will make mistakes, even sometimes when we think we should no better, and it does no good to beat ourselves up when that happens.

There, I will finally jump down from my soap box. I apologize for my ranting, and I guess for someone who didn't have much to say, I did certainly go on
and on, but this was an excellent thought provoker.

Mark Tardif

**24. Boy is this ever a good one!!! Not only have I seen this happen too many times over to those who have just gone blind or become disabled in any other
way, but I have also experienced it in my choice of a husband.
A year before I met my husband, John, he was attack by some gang members on his way back home from returning some movies to the video store for his
children and ex-wife. He started deteriorating before his family's eyes after that. Very slowly, his ability to walk declined. First, he was walking
with a cane until he started falling all the time, then he was relegated to using a manual wheelchair. As a result, his ex-wife, followed by his eldest
daughter started losing respect for him as a man and as a human being. It was his younger daughter who remained loyal, but even she could only do so much
as an eight-year-old at the time. By the time I met John, not only had he all but lost his family and their respect for him, but he had lost his own pride
and self-confidence. It was me who restored his self-confidence through my living by example with a disability. Sure, I am able to walk, but it was through
my physically disabled friends in junior and senior high school that I learned the different ways of coping and being able to do things independently.
Eleven years into our marriage, our saying is "he is my eyes and I am his legs". He now uses a power wheelchair. I reach for things he cannot reach as
he directs me to where the item is. I do most of the cooking and all of the laundry, but he is able to sweep and mop the floor. I've even showed him
how to dance in his wheelchair. Still, however, his family's respect for him has not returned. The only reason why we have had the privilege to care
for our grandson for a couple weeks at a time in our own home and up in their home is because of me and my ability to care for children and all that it
all entails. Otherwise, his family never wants to be bothered with going to the store for us or taking John to the store just to leisurely shop.
As for me, not only did I have my adoptive mother's embarrassment and uneasiness towards my blindness, but when I introduced John to my adoptive family,
I, too, started losing their love and respect for me. John's disability was not the problem. Rather, it was the fact that John's Black and Native-American.
despite that the color of my skin is as dark as most Blacks, I was considered White in my adoptive family's eyes. So, when I introduced John to my adoptive
family, I had crossed the color line altogether. Mind you, my adoptive parents talked about the bad influence Black people can have when I discovered
rap music during my teen years, but they also constantly talked about being open to new things--ideas, kinds of people, etc. When it came down to the
knitty-gritty that evening, however, my bringing in a Black person, particularly a Black man, into the home was a violation of unwritten family rules.
As a result, whenever John and I were invited to family functions, people either humored us in conversation, or they would not talk to us at all. eventually,
I was invited but not John. When that happened was when I declined all invitations. Upon my refusal to attend family functions, my adoptive parents would
come over on my birthday and around the Holidays with gifts that were said to be for John and I but were geared more towards for me. In the open, the
idea was to give me gifts so that I would still feel included. Beneath the surface, however, my adoptive family searched for signs that I may be being
abused. After all, their notion was that Black people, particularly Black men, are abusive and that John married me for the money I had or possibly had. Shortening
up this whole ordeal a bit, what it boils down to in a nutshell is that my adoptive family made all kinds of accusations directly and indirectly to me about
John not relaying their messages to me, keeping me from attending family functions, etc. As for me, I had violated unwritten rules. Like my adoptive
family, my friends also did the same thing to me.
Despite the loss of my adoptive family and friends, I did gain a new family and new friends. I had re-established contact with one of the nuns who
raised me; she accepts John unconditionally. John's grandmother has also accepted me unconditionally. And, while I was attending college, it was the
Black and Native-American communities John associated with who looked out for me as I walked through the crime-ridden neighborhood to and from the bus
In short, it is not just disability that can divide you from your family and friends, but it can also be the decisions you make in your life--choice
of partner, choosing to convert to a different religion, etc.

Linda Minnesota