The following is an edited excerpt from Now I See: A Journey of Prophecy, Pain, and Purpose ©2019 by Vera Jones
Chapter 8 – I CAN
The dorm supervisor came in and began to explain how Andrew would be expected to make his bed, clean his room, and would share in the other rotating dorm chores every week like preparing meals. I almost fainted. She had me at “make his bed and clean his room!” In all my years of trying, these feats remained elusive even when Andrew had great sight. Praise God, my prayers were being answered! She began to explain other important rules and logistics and stressed how their objective was to teach the students as much as they needed to know about being independent and self-reliant as early as possible. At Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, plenty of learning would come from classroom studies, but so much more growth would come from personal care and adhering to social norms. At FSDB, they were tremendously aware of what challenges blindness and visual impairment presented, but the goal was to place far more emphasis on what a child can do rather than what he or she can’t.
For a year and a half, (post-surgery) there was so much emphasis placed on what Andrew would not be able to do because of his disabilities. He couldn’t play contact sports like football and basketball; he couldn’t easily navigate crowded areas; he would never be able to drive a car; etc. I would always try to put a positive spin on things saying, “Surely, there are other things you CAN do, Drew. You’ve got to just put your energy into that.” Here was a school that thrived on that belief. It was at FSDB that Andrew would go fishing, kayaking, swimming, and even gain the benefit of participating in sports. He discovered goalball. In all my years in and around sports, I had never heard of goalball. It is a Paralympic sport for the blind. I became fan number one, never missing an opportunity to get down to see Andrew and his teammates play.
What if every day you woke up, you only focused on what you could do, and just blocked out all of the things you could not? How much different would life be if you rejoiced and celebrated your CANs, no matter how humble or modest they may be to anyone else? It’s a totally different perspective, and it is exhilarating. Imagine your car breaking down, and as frustrating as it may be, you say, “Oh great, I CAN take a taxi or catch a bus. I haven’t done that in a long time….Blind students don’t get to be angry that their car broke down. They need to get from point A to point B. Thinking about how they can’t do it or feeling sorry for themselves is a waste of time and will never accomplish their goals. Their mindset is different. It is always set on, “How CAN I make this work?”
It was amazing to watch this type of attitude slowly take residence in my own child’s heart and mind. Each year Andrew was in attendance at FSDB, I realized we spent more and more time talking about his accomplishments, and we celebrated each one with so much more gratitude. I recall the day he joined the track team and started throwing the shot put and the discus. I was so proud the day he came home and told me he wanted to get a job. He walked up to the Publix Supermarket, just three quarters of a mile from our home. On his own, he filled out an application. He was called in for an interview a few days later and hired on by the following week! I was so proud of him in his green Publix polo shirt and black apron! He even had his own name badge! You have not seen pride and joy like a legally blind16-year-old with his first corporate polo and name badge! Maybe he couldn’t drive cars, but he pushed carts and bagged groceries like a champ!
….One of my proudest moments ever was watching my only son walk across the FSDB graduation stage in 2016 as the salutatorian of his graduating class. The emcee announced, “Andrew Soleyn will be attending Florida State University on a Florida Bright Future’s Scholarship!” A young boy, who post-brain surgery, was sad and withdrawn and didn’t even want to go to school just six years earlier, had excelled academically. He challenged himself to take advanced placement and college courses to enter a major university with 21 college credits. He had participated in sports and had become his senior class vice president. Above all else, he was a warm-hearted, kind, well-adjusted, and determined 18-year-old young man with a proven “Can Do” mentality. It’s undeniable. There is power in “I CAN!”
Vera Jones is a Motivational Speaker, Author, and Professional Development Coach. For more information or to get your copy of NOW I SEE, visit www.verasvoiceworks.com
Join us for a presentation from Vera where she will share more of her story on Thursday, November 12, at 2:00pm Eastern. Register here.