gLooking Forward to the Shining Eyesh
Mr. Takahiro Sakamoto, Yamaga City, Kumamoto Prefecture
gKeita Harada?h gHere!h gHaruna Suzuki?h gHere!h The classroom is full of the energetic voices of children again today. They all have shining eyesc and they all fix their curious gazes upon me. How many years have passed since that first day?
I was steadily losing my sight and felt depressed both at work and at home. I was so dismayed that I could no longer eat. I felt like doing nothing and thinking nothing, a clear symptom of stress. It was around that time that I overheard my daughter reading something aloud. Listening intently I caught words like gBrailleh and gLouis Braille.h Filled with curiosity I asked my daughter about it. She told me that she was reading a story entitled, gReading by Hand and Heart,h in her Japanese textbook.
When I heard that, it dawned on me, gThatfs right. I still have hands and I still have my heart. I have yet to lose everything!h I was on the brink of losing heart at the time. gYes, Ifll try learning Braille!h
I felt inspiration welling up from deep inside.
Since then, I have taken to reading Braille books every day, as if they were the only hope in my life. However, the reality was more difficult than I had imagined. I sometimes felt like giving up and had to encourage myself. In the end, I managed to learn to read Braille, and was filled with a sense of accomplishment.
Right around the time that I was finally getting over the shock of losing my eyesight, I received a phone call from my daughterfs school. They asked me to give a presentation to the children about visually challenged people and Braille. With slight hesitation, I decided to accept the invitation.
Finally, the day came and I kept wondering, gWill I be able to speak well in front of children?h gWill I be able to explain things to them well?
I walked through my old school gate, still feeling anxious. After that, I remember nothing except being completely absorbed in the presentation and talking on and on. The only other thing I recall clearly is the childrenfs energetic voices and their intense, almost piercing gaze upon me as I entered the classroom. The eyes of these children must be shining like stars filling the sky, I thought to myself.
Since that time, I have been captivated by those eyes and have visited countless schools. However, I have never been satisfied with my presentation. Every time I reflect regretfully on what I have said.
Once when I was doing a school presentation, I gave my usual speech about disability in general and visual impairment in particular. During the following period, I taught them Braille, which was the most popular part for the young students. They first learned the basic knowledge and then practiced typing Braille by themselves. We started with gmeuchih (the six-dot figure) and learned the positions of the six dots. Then we proceeded to the fifty Japanese characters and finished with the children writing their own names. I encouraged them by saying, gGood, all correct. Well done.h
Towards the end, one girl came to show me her work and it was all wrong. I pointed out her mistakes and told her to try again, but she came back to me with the same mistakes. Without much thought, I said to her, gSee, thatfs wrong. You type Braille on the reverse side. You shouldnft type it on the side you read.h I told her to try again and come back. While all of the other children got it right, the girl went back to her seat a little confused. (I didnft realize she was struggling until later.)
On her next try she only got half right and the other half was still wrong. It was then that I suddenly realized that she might have a slight learning disability. If so, how insensitive I had been! I had been so preoccupied with myself that I had not stopped to really pay attention to her. Silently apologizing to her in my mind, I took her hand and taught her how to make the letters one by one. gThank youc very much,h she whispered to me. Her voice sounded as if she were about to cry.
The girl finally typed her name in Braille correctly. I said loudly, gCongratulations, well done. You did a beautiful job.h Applause spontaneously erupted in the room and the girl seemed very happy. When I left, she thanked me again and again. Though I did not actually say it, the wholehearted smile I gave her meant, gThank you!h
Later I received letters from all of the students, including one from that same little girl. Her timid Braille read, gEven though learning Braille was difficult, I enjoyed it a lot. Please come to our school again.h I smiled to myself.
I think sometimes we disabled people tend to forget to extend kindness to others even though we assume that we can depend on receiving help. I am thankful to that little girl for helping me learn this important lesson, and I will take this new understanding with me as I continue to visit schools.
I always look forward to seeing their shining eyes.