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What Makes A Hero?

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What Does Hero Mean to You?

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”

~Maya Angelou

Some days I can’t help but feel that I’m the luckiest person on the planet. Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by heroes. I’m not talking about fictional heroes or those endowed with superhuman qualities although this could be dependent upon how these traits are being used. No, the types of heroes I’m referring to are those who practice humanitarianism as a way of life.

Those who give of themselves without the expectation of monetary gain or notoriety to me are extraordinary people. With these types of individuals, there is no ‘catch’ or deception because these folks see the world differently than the vast majority. Qualities like truth, integrity, compassion, empathy and the like are dominant characteristics in these people.

Last year, when my friend Carla Ernst died I felt a part of me died with her because Carla was one of my all-time heroes. She was an extraordinary person who believed in the mission of Bold Blind Beauty. On days when I doubted myself (there were many), she lifted me up and motivated me to continue pushing forward.

While Carla’s death knocked me off-kilter and I struggled mightily to honor her memory there were days grief threatened to devour me. Yet, it was at one of my lowest points another hero came into play. Her name is Nasreen Bhutta a woman I am honored to call my friend.

A Heroic Act Out of the Blue

I’ve known Nasreen for nearly two years and while we’ve periodically maintained contact she called me completely out of the blue. This act may not seem like much until I tell you she called me when she was on an extended stay in India.

I can’t remember exactly how our conversation went but I do remember what she said next: “Steph I like what you’re doing and I want to help.” Since I wasn’t prepared for this I was momentarily speechless. I mean, Nasreen was so emphatic and she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. My response—I cried. Without shame, I cried because here she was halfway around the world and she was compelled to reach out to me. By the way, I should probably mention that while Nasreen has been featured here before this will be her first time on the cover of B3 Magazine.

A lot has happened since Nasreen’s call last summer and I almost feel like I’m in a dreamlike state. This woman, who gives wholeheartedly and unconditionally, has become my right-hand person here at Bold Blind Beauty. Thank you, my friend!

Up until this past January Nasreen and I hadn’t even met in person. Yet the universe presented an opportunity for us to meet. Nasreen traveled from Toronto, Canada and I from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to meet up in New Jersey for a conference. What was true serendipity though was for the two of us to connect with some other amazing heroes.

It was in New Jersey where we met Melody Goodspeed (another friend who I’ve only previously known online). With Melody, an innocent conversation led to her excitedly becoming our new voice of Abby. Then there were others:

  • Cheryl Minnett
  • Tish Gelineau
  • Michael Moran
  • David DeNotaris
  • Tanner Gers
  • John McInerney
  • Jeff Wissel

The above is only a partial list of individuals who I consider heroes because of their commitment to improving the lives of others.

Who Is The Hero In Your Life?

If you pay close attention, there are an abundance of heroes all around us. And let’s not forget the most important hero—you!

It’s not your job to like me – it’s mine.”

~Byron Katie

Everyone isn’t going to like us and likewise, we aren’t going to like everyone. However to like/love anyone it has to begin internally and it’s no one else’s responsibility to do this for us but ourselves. My favorite speaker, author, researcher, Brené Brown says it this way: “Practicing selflove means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves.” Maybe real heroes understand that in order to love others they must have a healthy dose of self-love. So the next time you are in need of a hero…

Lyrics

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road
When you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand
For you to hold
You can find love
If you search within yourself
And that emptiness you felt
Will disappear

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you, oh, oh

Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away, hey yeah
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
In time you’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
Mmm, that a hero lies in you

Source: LyricFindSongwriters: Mariah Carey / Walter AfanasieffHero lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Featured Image Description:

The B3 Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number, are in the upper right corner in black ink. Nasreen’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. In this photo, Nasreen, a pretty brunette with shoulder-length wavy hair is wearing a black pantsuit. She’s standing in the lobby of our hotel with a black shoulder bag on her left shoulder. “B3” is in large teal text and a teal-colored circle with Nasreen’s name and “Monthly Beauties” in white text. There are four 4-lines of black text on the image that reads “A Real-Life Hero Fierce, Fiery & Passionate For People.”

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Living Life Boldly & Transforming Perceptions

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“When we are out here living our lives, we are bold. We are embracing our blindness. We are blind and we’re beautiful.”

Last year was tough. My best friend was diagnosed with cancer, another very good friend died unexpectedly, and I had to deal with some significantly unresolved fears. Yet among these struggles, there were always glimmers of light; standing up for my friend, continuing the work my other friend believed in so deeply, and coming to terms with myself.

One of the best gifts I received last year was a connection with Tony Koros at Grotto Network and the opportunity to share part of my story. Here is the video he created along with the transcript (below). Thank you, Tony, for spending my birthday with me and working with me to film this footage. And thank you Grotto Network for making this possible!💛

Blind Blogger Transforms Perceptions of Beauty

Video Transcript

Grotto Network

Meet Stephanae McCoy: Blind Beauty Blogger

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Stephanae: Beauty is seldom associated with blindness. Beauty is seldom associated with disabilities, or people with disabilities. I wanted to change that.

I was looking in the mirror and I took out my right contact lens. I’m looking up in the mirror and all of a sudden, because I still had my left contact lens in, my face was gone. There was just no face. I’m like, “Whoa.” My whole feeling about the process of going blind was: If I’m going to lose my sight, I’m going to do it my way.

We can do anything that we want to do, provided we’re given the tools to do it or we learn a different way of doing it.

Stephanae created a blog called “Bold Blind Beauty.” The blog celebrates blind and visually impaired people, and shares Stephanae’s tips on makeup, style, and beauty.

(Applying makeup in a mirror)

Most of the time I’m not even in a mirror when I’m doing this, but old habits die hard. Even when you can’t see, when you can no longer see, you still want to use a mirror sometimes. At least I do.

For me, becoming embarrassed by other people standing around watching me is huge. When I’m in an unfamiliar area, sometimes, even though I’ve been using a cane now for years and I feel like I’ve built up my confidence and I feel like I’ve got this thing down, I sometimes get so overwhelmingly afraid that I panic.

We need to change the way we look at people with disabilities. The way we’re doing it now, we’re looking at the tools that they use to become independent, but we’re seeing them as a crutch, as opposed to a tool of independence.

I created Bold Blind Beauty so that we could change the perception of how we view people, period. I just would like to see us be a more inclusive world for everyone and accept people as we really are, stripping away the outside and getting to the heart of who we are as people.

But when we are out there and we are living our lives, we are bold. We are embracing our blindness. We are blind and we’re beautiful. We’re beautiful because we’re out here doing that, living our lives.

Following Grotto Network:

Image Description:

A selfie of me taken in the doorway to my condo, sporting my stubbly bald head. I’m wearing a black v-neck tee that says “Warrior Life” in white text.

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The Accidental Adventurer Who Faced F.E.A.R.

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My life has been adventurous but not because I intended it to be that way. Unfortunately, for the greater part of my life, fear has been in the driver’s seat.

“Last year was both challenging and rewarding. Challenging because I faced some of my worst fears; my best friend’s cancer diagnosis, traveling blind, and the death of a very good friend. While my anxiety was nerve-wracking, coming out on the other side of these fears was a gift like none other.” ~Grappling With Fear To F.E.A.R.

Recently I was a guest blogger on Victoria Claire Beyond Vision where I shared my insights on fear. In Grappling With Fear To F.E.A.R., I hope that if you’re willing to face your fear(s) you will achieve your destinations, wherever or whatever they may be.

To check out the blog post simply click on the hyperlinks in this post or visit victoriaclaire-beyondvision.com.

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An in-flight photo taken from a plane flying over an extremely long bridge.

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Men In Motion | Kirk Adams

Hi Everyone, Happy Monday!!

You know how they say “the only certainty is uncertainty?” Well, since starting this website uncertainty has become synonymous with Bold Blind Beauty and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve talked about some of these changes in Seeing Differently A Message Of Hope For 2020 and Bold Blind Beauty Reveals. What I didn’t expect was help from some of the most amazing people including:

In addition to the folks mentioned, my right-hand person (Nasreen Bhutta), helped to create our advisory board to guide the direction of Bold Blind Beauty. At Catherine’s suggestion, we redesigned Blind Beauty to become B3 Magazine which will host our main features and more. We’re not sure how all of this is going to work but we are so excited to try this experiment.

Obviously, it is going to take us some time to restructure the site to match our vision and we ask for your patience while things are moving about. Okay, enough about the site, I’m thrilled to introduce you to today’s “Man in Motion” and our first B3 Magazine feature Kirk Adams.

Men In Motion | Kirk Adams

Really, what’s next for me and for AFB is to change systems. To eliminate barriers, to create opportunities, to understand where we can focus our resources, leverage our relationships, our expertise, our history, to level the playing field for people who are blind. To create that world of no limits

~Kirk Adams | Men In Motion

Kirk Adams, President, and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is the first person to appear on the cover of B3 Magazine. It wasn’t that long ago that I met Kirk through my friend Melody Goodspeed. In sharing with Melody our Men in Motion series she immediately offered to invite Kirk to participate. A call was arranged and the next thing I knew I was working with some talented people who work for AFB to complete this project. Following is a video and below that is the transcript for those who prefer reading. Kirk, thank you very much for letting Bold Blind Beauty share your story. ~Steph

Hi, this is Kirk Adams. I am president and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind. It is truly a privilege to get to talk today to the Bold Blind Beauty community, and thank you, Steph McCoy, for reaching out to me. I’m honored to know you and really appreciate what you’re doing.

I was asked to tell a little bit about myself. I’m a totally blind person, born as a sighted person. My retinas detached when I was five years old. I was in kindergarten, and in that point in time blind kids didn’t go to school with their brothers and sisters and neighbors, you were going to a state residential school. I attended the Oregon State School for the Blind for first, second and third grades. I learned how to read and write braille, and travel with a white cane, and type on a typewriter, and we spent a lot of time with outdoor experiences, a lot of time on the Oregon coast, hiking in the mountains. 

I remember cutting wood with a crosscut saw, riding horses, though really learning to feel comfortable as a blind person moving through spaces and different environments. I was taught to love myself and body and what it could do. And when my blindness skills were to the level where I could participate in public school, I began public school in fourth grade. 

[It was] a very different experience – a lot of limits placed on me, mostly through misconceptions of blindness. I heard “No,” “That won’t work,” I heard “You can’t do that,” “That’s too dangerous.” I was the only blind kid in my school after leaving the school for the blind. It was really a sink-or-swim situation. It was before the Individuals with Disability Education Act, so sometimes I got my textbooks in Braille, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I had a different edition than the other kids. 

I was not allowed to participate in P.E. [physical education]. Again, people thought that would be too dangerous. I learned a lot through that experience. I developed a lot of resilience, grit, and perseverance. It was also isolating and difficult – especially in the teen years. I grew up in little rural towns and my classmates all got driver’s licenses when they turned 16, and all got jobs, and I got neither. And there was no public transportation.

It was a mixed bag. I was fortunate enough to receive an academic scholarship to go to college, a small college called Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. The first week there I met a brilliant, gorgeous young lady and we’ve been married now 34 years and have two find children who are active adults, contributing to their communities.

The next phase after college was wanting to do the thing that young adults do, which was to find a good job and buy a house and raise a family. I started applying for jobs. I had good credentials – Phi Beta Kappa cum laude, 4.0 in my major, which was economics, and I started sending out resumes and cover letters. I knew I wanted to work in Seattle, where there is good public transportation. 

I was applying to finance jobs. I would get a phone interview, and it would go really well. Then I would walk in for the in-person interview, with my white cane and my slate and stylus and Braille… and things did not go well. I was not offered positions – I was often told I was the second candidate. 

I was not at that point revealing my disability, disclosing my disability during the application process. So I changed my tack – I started disclosing my disability in my cover letter, letting people know I’m totally blind, have been since I was five, here’s how I’ve accomplished what I’ve accomplished, here’s how I’ll do the job that you need done, here’s how I will contribute… and then I wasn’t even getting the phone interviews. 

I started casting that employment net wider and wider and wider. I applied for a sales position with a securities firm, a small family-owned business that underwrote tax-free municipal bonds in the Puget Sound area. The sales manger [there] had also gone to Whitman College and was also an Econ major. We’d had some of the same professors and he called them, and they vouched for my competencies, and I was offered a position selling tax-free municipal bonds over the phone, which I did for ten years. I earned enough to do those things I wanted to do – get married, buy a house, start our family.

After doing that for about ten years, I really came to the point where I wanted to contribute to my community in a different way. I pivoted into the non-profit sector, became a development officer for the Seattle Public Library Foundation, raising money for the statewide Talking Book and Braille Library.

I knew I’d found my home in the nonprofit world, so I went back to school and got a master’s degree in not for profit leadership from Seattle University. I had increasingly more responsibility as I moved through different organizations, and I was fortunate enough to be hired by the Lighthouse for the Blind of Seattle, where I became CEO. I served in that position for eight years, grew the organization nicely, increased the numbers of blind and deaf-blind people we employed, increased wages, increased locations, had a very great experience. 

During that time, I connected with the American Foundation for the Blind through our leadership conference. I attended my first AFB Leadership Conference in 2001, when I went to work for the Lighthouse. I was told, “If you want to get to know the blindness field, you need to go to the AFB Leadership Conference!” 

I’ve gone 19 years in a row now, I was asked to join the program committee for AFB, then the board of trustees, and then when my predecessor announced his retirement, I put my name forward. There was a very rigorous national search, and I am blessed to be given the opportunity to lead AFB into its second century – our centennial next year in 2021.

[End narrative]

7:41 – 10:32 Q1 Who are the major influences in your life? 

Thinking about the people who had the most influence on my life, I think I’ll take them in order, there’s three people who come to mind. One of them is my grandmother – my mom’s mom. Her name was Bessy Rose Luark, and she grew up in very rural Washington state. Her family was involved in the logging and timber industry. She was a Rosie the Riveter during World War Two, she worked on Boeing aircraft. She was a serial entrepreneur, she owned a boarding house, she owned a nursing home, she started a greenhouse to do wholesale sales of flowers to the florists, she went back to school and got a license for practical nursing certificate in her 50s. 

She was just an amazing person. When my retinas detached when I was five and I became totally blind she treated me just like she treated all of her other grandkids. She would adapt crafts projects for me so they could be tactile. Just an amazing doer, a “no limits” type of person. She did not allow society to put any type of limits on her, she lived her life fully. She passed away when our son was three years old, so he got to meet her. I think about her a lot.

The second person would be a lady named Mrs. Summers, she was my teacher at the Oregon State School for the Blind. She gave me the gift of literacy. She taught me how to read Braille. She was a tough task master. She made me practice the techniques and the hand sweeping gestures of a good braille reader for hours and hours and hours before she would teach me the braille code. I’d ask her, “Can I learn to read now?” and she’d say, “No, you’re not ready yet!”

When I finally was given that gift, I just became a voracious reader. Reading carried me through many a difficult time, especially in my adolescence. 

The third person would be my wife, Ros. We met the first week of school (college), when we were 18 and now, we’ve been married 34 years. She has the biggest heart of anyone I know, the most grace. 

Those are three people – coincidentally, all female! They were the three people that came to mind when I think about who had the most influence on me. 

As a blind parent, what were some of the challenges you experienced?

Parenting two children as a totally blind person, a couple things come to mind. Really the main challenge that I can think of was around transportation. We had two very active kids, both involved in music – one’s a cellist, ones a harpist. They were involved in sports. 

For the typical sighted parent who can drive, can support those activities in a way that a blind parent can’t. Although, public transportation was our friend. The kids had metro bus passes early on. I had an account with a taxi company that would bill us monthly, and both kids had access to the taxi account. Obviously, this was before Uber and Lyft, which I think could make a world of difference now. 

I would say the flipside, though, is that my kids have a sense of empathy and fairness that is exemplary, and I think that part of that is they were raised by one parent with a significant disability. My wife is African American so we’re an interracial family as well, so our kids have some really unique experiences and viewpoints. I think their lives are richer because of my blindness, and I think they would say the same. 

What’s next for AFB and Kirk Adams? 

Really, what’s next for me and for AFB is to change systems. To eliminate barriers, to create opportunities, to understand where we can focus our resources, leverage our relationships, our expertise, our history, to level the playing field for people who are blind. To create that world of no limits. 

Following AFB:

Image Description:

The B3 Magazine cover has a gray/white marbled background. The date & edition number are in the upper right corner in black ink. Kirk’s photo is aligned on the right margin with the background appearing on the top, bottom and left margin. In the headshot, Kirk is very distinguished with silver hair and dressed in a dark business suit with a dark print tie. “B3” is in large teal text and a teal-colored circle with Kirk’s name and title are in white text. There is a 4-line of white text on the image that reads “creating an inclusive society that values all of our abilities”