I have been asked to speak at a career day of sorts for blind teenagers headed off to college, and I’ve been thinking about what I am going to attempt to tell them. I say attempt to because I remember myself at that age, and I’m not sure that anything I say in a few minutes will have a great impact, but nonetheless I will try. The most important point I am going to attempt to make to them has applicability whether blind or sighted. White or black. Skinny or fat. You get the picture. That point is this: we are all ultimately responsible for our own behavior. We may not always be able to control circumstances, ultimately I believe God is sovereign and in control, but God allows us a measure of free will and we are responsible for how we react to situations. In the case of teenagers, they are headed off to college soon. In the case of blind/visually impaired (or whatever the politically correct term is these days) there is a tendency to rely on disability services too much in my opinion. I am concerned that the next generation of blind teenagers, even teenagers in general, will be at a disadvantage because they will not take even simple steps to do things for themselves, preferring to wait on others to do things for them. In these types of situations, I like to say that no one cares as much about your education as you do, or at least as much as you should. This would mean, for example, balancing fun time with school work time (hint: school work always comes first), seeing professors if you need help, etc. While I realize that doing everything right is not a guarantee of success, whether blind or sighted, it certainly will go a long way toward getting you there. I shudder to think how easy we have it now compared to the blind people that went before us. While we still face legitimate and sometimes crushing discrimination, the blind people who went to university had it much worse. we, for example, can get most of our material electronically, and it can be read whenever we wish independently. Not that long ago, a blind person would have had to hire “readers”, usually other students, to read material on to cassette tapes, and we were totally at the mercy of their schedule. I’ve even heard from some older blind adults that went through school before the advent of tape recorders and computers, meaning that a blind person had to use a typewriter to write papers with no way to read what they had just typed. Talk about torture. This doesn’t mean that we can’t and shouldn’t push for changes to make life easier and more accessible for us, but it does mean that we need to use the opportunities we have been given.
Yet while I feel strongly regarding personal responsibility, I feel equally strong that we are all interdependent, meaning we cannot live life alone. Some people certainly try, whether it is blind people bitter at the rest of the world or Christians who see the church as either unnecessary or ineffective. The truth is we need each other. Paul mentions this in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. This means that we all need to seek help from others when appropriate and give back when possible. In truth these points are complementary. If we take responsibility for our own lives, we will be more likely to receive help and will be in a better position to give back. So let us never forget to control what we can control, and seek help for those things which are outside of our control. If you do this you are much more likely to obtain success in whatever you do.