Quiet Heroism of Amazing People

by Larry P. Johnson
Reprinted from “The San Antonio Express-News,” July 30, 2016.
 
(Editor’s Note: Larry Johnson is an author and motivational speaker. You can contact him at larjo1@prodigy.net or visit his website at www.mexicobytouch.com.)
 
“You are so amazing.” I can’t tell you how many times people have said that to me. But I don’t think I am. I just do the best I can each day, whether it’s to throw a 14-pound bowling ball at a bunch of pins at the bowling alley, poach a couple of eggs for breakfast, or write a column for the Express-News. Sometimes I miss the pins, overcook my eggs or get the punctuation or spelling wrong in my article. And that’s OK, because I get to try again. Yet, for some sighted folks, it’s amazing that I would even want to try.
 
According to the dictionary, to be amazed is to experience great surprise, to be overwhelmed with wonder. I suppose it does surprise some sighted folks to learn that blind people can and do work at real jobs, participate in real sports, graduate from college, raise families, and cook their own breakfasts. The truth is blind people are pretty much like everyone else. We have the same hopes and dreams, the same mixed bag of talents and weaknesses, and we experience our share of both failures and successes.
 
The amazing part is that when we do ordinary everyday things, like everyone else, our achievements are amplified and exaggerated. Of course there have been some truly amazing blind people like Helen Keller, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Erik Weihenmayer, the young blind man who climbed Mount Everest in 2001.  
 
But most of us do not aspire to be so amazing. A couple of years ago I came across a book written by Clifford Olstrom, entitled “Undaunted by Blindness.” It presented concise biographies of 400 people who refused to let their visual impairment define them. He could have written about 4,000 or 40,000 or 400,000. Blind people are every day achieving success, fulfilling their dreams, doing what everyone else does, living their lives.
 
Every day I meet amazing people who surprise me by their dedication, their talent or their accomplishments, and they are not blind. They are young single mothers who have to work two jobs in order to make ends meet to raise their children. They are retired seniors who volunteer to drive other seniors to their medical appointments. They are teachers who use their own money to buy school supplies for their students. They are Girl Scout leaders, Red Cross volunteers, school crossing guards, Meals on Wheels drivers, and so many more. These are the truly amazing, caring and unselfish folks who inspire me and whom I praise for their daily dedication and accomplishments.
 
I recently read about the oldest Holocaust survivor when she passed away at age 110. Her name was Alice Herz Sommer. She was an inmate of the Terezin concentration camp. Surrounded by death and evil and all those things that might otherwise crush our spirits, Alice found her way to her most beautiful inner peace. Through music, she reached deep into her spirit and found a peace unlike anything she had ever known. When asked how it was that she was able to preserve her optimism and hope, Alice replies simply, “Life is beautiful … wherever you look is beauty.” Now that was one amazing woman.  And that’s how I see it.