Post Title: Courage to Network with a White Cane – Part Two.
PROCEED TO THE ROUTE.
I grabbed my white cane and headed out the door. I couldn’t wait to leave for the Northwest Pennsylvania Networking Meeting, a new face-to-face group in Erie I had joined the previous month. The red tote in my lap held business cards, the cover of my free booklet in a plexiglass document holder, synopses of my books and special bookmarks with quotes from my latest memoir.
I switched on my GPS and Siri started to rattle off directions to the posh yacht club.
When my brother, Mike, first started driving me places, we established a trade-off. He gave me rides and I treated him to a dinner out for giving up his time. Four miles into the drive, we hit a snag. Uh-oh! I couldn’t find my purse. No wallet, no money.
“Sorry, we need to go back. I forgot my purse.”
He sighed. We had been on the road for at least ten minutes. “Do you need it?”
“If you want to eat out tonight, I do.”
Mike didn’t argue or berate me. He simply turned around.
At home, I retrieved my purse and returned to the car. As we headed back to the yacht club, I handed my brother two crisp five-dollar bills.
My forgetfulness cost us half an hour. I hoped I wouldn’t be late. Too bad I missed the pre-session mixer but the main networking had yet to start. Mike dropped me off with a request for “goodies” if they had any nice treats left over (like cookies!).
TAKING THE FIRST STEP.
I walked through the door and swept my way into a big dining room with my white cane. The head honcho, a super nice guy, smiled and greeted me. Richard had a clipboard in hand and checked off my name. He told me to make myself comfortable.
When I scanned the room for a friendly face, I didn’t find any. If anyone saw me, he or she quickly looked away. This is what I had feared arriving late. I stood in the center of the room holding onto my white cane. I bit my lip as I decided what my next move would be. It seemed silly to sit alone since I came to network. But I didn’t have the courage to simply join a group or already formed clique.
Suddenly my spirits lifted. A few feet to my right, I noticed a gentleman looking at me with curiosity. At least he didn’t seem to be put off by my cane. In fact, I had a funny feeling that’s what drew his gaze. So I walked over and asked if the seat next to him was free.
My eyes widened. Perhaps I misread him.
I could only hear the tail end of what the man said, “no, but the next seat over is free.”
What was wrong with the seat next to him? It looked vacant to me.
Did he really want me to sit thee or was he just being polite? I kind of had to take the aisle seat. I was invited, after all. My bag went on the floor. Before I settled in, I picked up my cane and searched for a snack. There were sandwiches and a relish tray with dip. I took two triangles of egg salad. No goodies for Mike tonight. He had a sweet tooth.
The bright red tote at in the aisle helped me locate my place again. I set my sandwich down. A waiter offered to bring me a goblet of water. The man two seats down introduced himself as Chris.
I busied myself by taking out my carefully-designed marketing materials and arranging it on the table in front of me. There was so much, it seemed I was a new tenant and should be paying rent!
A man sat down in the vacant seat. That’s why the seat wasn’t free. He was off getting sandwiches.
“I remember you from last month,” I exclaimed. “You have a home business, right?”
He nodded and turned his attention to the food in front of him.
No time to talk. The networking event began. The program kicked off this month’s host, a well-established podiatrist, who promoted a health and wellness business. The host, I learned, had the perk of speaking longer. All the rest of us had only about two minutes so we had to condense our pitch to the group.
Some took charge of the room, boldly expressing the benefits of their enterprises. Other business owners didn’t even stand up. They said only a few sentences before sliding down into their seats. It took the leader to draw them out.
I was the fifth one in the second row. Sweat started to pepper my forehead.
Chris took his turn. Curious, I listened. It didn’t take long. From what I could gather, he enlarged the pathway at a local parkway to enable wheelchair-bound nature lovers to access it. No mention of any business. Was he self-employed? Perhaps knowing others with disabilities drew his attention to me when I walked in with my white cane.
Next, Jack, who had the home business, stood up. He seemed to be a favorite among the regulars in the group. And no wonder! When he spoke, he showed real courage. He wasn’t the smooth-talking businessman who conquered the room, at least not in the traditional way. Speaking made him anxious, he said. But he spoke anyway.
He told the humorous story of how his business started–all because someone threw out a perfectly good lawn more–that only lacked gas!
Laughter. Everyone in the room championed him. And rightly so, Jack had a delightful personality! It struck me how wonderful God was to first, equip him with this particular talent and secondly, to present circumstances in which he planted the idea of a viable livelihood and challenge Jack’s spirit.
He went on to tell a second story. “You know, I had a fear of elevators.” Whoever he was with at the time, probably a friend, mentioned he heard someone’s stomach growling.’That would be mine,’ Jack said. ‘I’m hungry.’
I guessed Jack must not have been where he could drive or walk into any old restaurant. Wherever he was, the only way to access the restaurant was via the elevator. If he wanted to eat, he had to overcome his fear of elevators. And he did.
More laughter. Happy, celebratory laughter.
Courage preceded me. And it lent me strength.
I didn’t walk the room. My cane was folded up under the table. But knowing it lay there reminded me my weakness was made perfect in God’s strength. The result? Complete confidence as I described my challenges and the purpose of my blogging and books—encouragement, a bridge between the sighted and the blind, and the ability for each of us to choose our response to difficulties. My name cards and synopses went around the room.
I talked about a free booklet I had just finished putting together and even remembered to hold up the plexiglass cover display. “I would love for you to sign up for my blog and newsletter. You will automatically receive this free booklet.” I was on such a heady roll. Reveling in my success, I took my seat. I looked down and what I saw startled me. There, in front of me was the clipboard and a clean sign-up sheet I forgot to pass around. Go figure.
A HEART FOR OTHERS..
Listening to the others speak gave me insights, and a heart for these entrepreneurs. The more I observed, the more I realized the playing field was leveled. Being vision-impaired and hard of hearing did not mean I had any greater challenge. Having to influence others means we have to believe in ourselves, and that we make a difference. Believing that is one challenge and communicating that is yet another.
As a vision-impaired individual using a white cane, I am sensitive to how others respond to me, especially in a new setting or group situation. I could let myself feel defeated or lacking if I based my worth on the reception of others. But I need to base my worth more on how I feel about myself rather than how I project others are responding to me.
Each of us has his or her psychological white cane. It can be used as a tool to propel us forward, or an item that makes us self-conscious. If we are hungry enough to pursue the life we want, we listen to the growl that comes from deep within our gut and step onto the elevator. We face our fears. Others may be at a more reticent stage. Their cane is folded up, still there, not yet a comfortable tool. Everyone in the room seems to be at a different stage when it comes to their comfort zone. What I admire is each has taken his or her own steps, seeking to grow. They feel the hunger pangs, and are somewhere inside the elevator.
Upon reflection, I don’t think the group ignored me when I first arrived to the networking event because of my white cane. Or at least not purposely. People can and do look without seeing. They are busy harnessing courage to say and do their own thing in front of their peers. A few, like Richard and Chris, see outside themselves to welcome others and put strangers at ease.
At the end of the event, Chris and a woman named Cindy purchased copies of my new updated book. Chris bought it for a friend struggling with loss. Cindy said, “I can’t wait to read this. I’m certain God brought you into my life to encourage me. Could you visit me at my house? You exude such joy. I need that.”
Our weakness is made perfect in God’s strength. I was networking. Though I failed to secure a single sign-up in my own strength, God didn’t forget. He signed up the people he wanted to receive the here-and-now, in-the-flesh version of my blog.
With my brother’s support, I would cross highways and bridges. Instead of paying any old stranger at a toll booth, I had the privilege of repaying my brother for his support on the roads Siri would take us. If I ever forget what I need, I know Mike will simply turn around and ensure I retrieve it. He knows the roads. I can rely on him to take me to my destination in time for the main event.
That night, I saw my white cane as a tool in moving ahead in my faith and also trusting the Holy Spirit to help me succeed in God’s business.
What tools do you find move you forward in your own life? What new activities have you explored?
You have just read “Courage to Network with a White Cane” by Amy L. Bovaird. © June 25, 2019. All rights reserved.
5 Stars “…I’m not vision impaired. I don’t read non-fiction for enjoyment. I am not what some might consider the target market for this book, but I can tell you that I would recommend it to my own teenagers, my husband, my teenage students, and anyone else I know as a book of bravery, encouragement, motivation, testimony, and just as a pleasure read. Don’t pass it by: You will be blessed.”–An Amazon Reader
5 Stars “Living in the Power instead of the fear!”
Mobility Matters elegantly shares Amy Bovaird’s emotions and experience which anyone going through vision loss can identify with. The transformation as she overcomes her fear and the enemies voices that her loss of vision will now define who she is as a person and dictate the rest of her life, will inspire hope to each reader. Amy’s journey stepping out in faith and how the Lord’s Word gave her the strength to keep going, is a must read.
This book is not only for those going through the hallway of vision loss, but for each family member or any one who loves someone losing their vision would also benefit by reading.
Mobility Matters Stepping out in Faith has left me thinking I will now call canes power sticks!!!
Michael Benson, Founder
Visual Experience Foundation
4 Stars “…As a mobility specialist myself, I found this book of great interest to me for its subject matter. I was quite amazed that Amy could get around on her own with her genetic condition, particularly at night, since individuals with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) tend to lose their night vision and are using a cane at night much sooner than Amy was using any assistive device (even a bright light). Amy maintained her positive attitude, her faith and her sense of humour. If only we all could do that in times of crisis!” –Kathryn Svendsen, Mobility Specialist, Canada
5 Stars “Couldn’t stop reading until I finished. Very inspirational. Will definitely be looking for more by this author!” –Sharon Hannah
5 stars “…This book really inspired me. Amy’s outlook on life is what I would like to model in my own. Yes, going blind SUCKS but she took it to another level. She made it into an adventure and I needed to be reminded of that again. Her positive outlook on this all has really encouraged me in my current situation now. Taking the step of faith to move on forward and embrace life for what it is. I highly recommend purchasing this book! Be inspired, take a journey behind the life of someone with Usher, smile, laugh, and enjoy! –Andi Nicole
5 Stars “As a person who lives with chronic illness, I sometimes get bogged down with books on illness that feel really heavy. This one does not. Author Amy Bovaird, who is losing her sight, writes so well about her personal experiences, I feel like I’m walking alongside her as I read. I kept coming back to the story to see what happened–was she going to let fear stop her? Would she overcome?
The lessons Amy learns through her experiences apply to any of us who fear aging, illness, new symptoms, or really anyone who needs some inspiration, and that reminder that much can be accomplished if you step out and forward–even when you cannot see beyond that first step. I definitely enjoyed this book. –Kimberly Rae, Bestselling Author of the Stolen Series
Blog post review by Gillian Davis, RP Tunnel of Sight
One of the best books I have ever read about mobility and white cane use is called Mobility Matters: Stepping out in Faith by Amy Bovard. It is funny, poignant and packs a lot of tips and useful information. You can find it by following the link below to Amy’s web page and listen to a chapter before you buy, it is wonderful.