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A Speech & A Revelation

Toastmasters would be appalled!

Recently I was invited to speak at a fundraising event hosted by Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh (BVRS). Admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve last done any public speaking but I was pumped at the prospect of a presentation that would rival any of the Ted Talks (maybe a tad delusional I know, but let me have my moment).

Planner that I am, prior to the event I furiously wrote, edited, scrapped and repeated so many versions of my speech I lost count. This was my big moment, the outcome of which would hurl me into the stratosphere of greatness!

The venue was a charming 1920s renovated single-screen movie theater. Guest gift bags, multiple raffles with great prizes, buffet of delectable appetizers, drinks and a movie, made for a fabulous Girls’ Night Out.

On entering the lobby guests were mixing, mingling, and having a good time. I met so many lovely ladies, some of whom were very familiar with BVRS and others who wanted to learn more about the organization.

Eventually it was time to enter the darkened theater (thank goodness I brought my tablet which contained my notes or it could have been a very bad day). After Erika Arbogast, President of BVRS thanked everyone for coming and gave a few brief words on the event, she introduced me.

I didn’t think I was nervous but it’s the only explanation I can come up with for what happened next. One of the first things I learned on public speaking was to not begin with an apology, can you see where this is going? Yup, I explained something to the effect of how having a tablet as opposed to note cards was preferable, yadayadayada.

Then to my horror I lost my place on my tablet and drew a complete blank. As I heard myself uttering uh, uh, um, uh, I was simultaneously counting the ahs (a task learned in Toastmasters). For an agonizing minute that stretched on for what seemed like hours I totally lost my memory.

Plans to slay the audience were pushed aside as I had to regain my composure to carry on with my message. While I didn’t say all that I wanted to, giving up on the tablet and talking from my heart ended up being okay.

Many of us go through life trying to find out our life’s mission and here I was living my purpose and didn’t fully understand it until the other day. I’ve been an advocate (now Abilities Crusader) for many years but it wasn’t until May 3 of this year that everything clicked into place.

Twenty eight years ago my middle son, Devon, was born. Till this day I don’t know how my grandmother knew, but she said something was wrong with him. To read more on Devon check out A Shot in the Dark.

By the time Devon reached first grade his issues escalated requiring hospitalization from which the diagnosis of ADHD along with other acronyms was given. When he was placed in special education this was when my advocacy began—this was my purpose and this was the topic of my speech.

When I lost my eyesight challenges like putting on makeup, taking medication, getting in and out of the shower, preparing for work, shopping, watching television, walking the dog, being unable to distinguish bushes from animals or trees from people—everything was difficult. If I thought all of this was hard, coming to terms with not recognizing the faces of people I knew and loved nearly broke me.

Many times I wanted to give up but I am so thankful for organizations like BVRS whose Access Technology Program brought me back from the brink. It was through this program that a trainer came to my job and he showed me how to use technology to continue working. He introduced many solutions to make living with sight loss easier.

Little did I know that managing Devon’s issues through 12 years of school was the gift of my purpose to help him, others, and myself. By BVRS fulfilling their purpose of helping people with sight loss and other disabilities reclaim their lives, they’ve allowed me and many others to continue living our purpose.

BVRS focuses on abilities and they realize the importance of seeing people as individuals each of whom is born with a specific mission. The services they provide aid people in re-attaining a meaningful life. I will always be grateful for what BVRS has done for me.