Post Title: Zoom Talk at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute

The Invitation

When I received an email from Janet Lemonis of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville, TN, asking me to serve as a featured speaker on Zoom to the sight support group there, I did a happy dance. Janet seemed to know Pris Rogers, the coordinator at VisionAware, where I volunteer my writing so I thought that’s how it all came about. But to my delight, Janet found my book, Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith online. Then she saw a review of it on VisionAware. A long-standing acquaintance of Pris, she contacted her asking for my email address. She wrote that she thought an author sharing her story about orientation and mobility would encourage the support group members, who all had different levels of sight loss. I felt so psyched!

I liked Zoom, and felt comfortable with this medium. After Covid-19 lockdown, our writing group used this it every week for our online critique sessions. In May, I had also been a featured guest author at the NFB (National Federation of the Blind) Round Table Book Discussion with host Marsh Drenth. In July, Melody Goodspeed of the AFB (American Foundation for the Blind) interviewed me on her weekly program called Inform and Connect via Zoom. We talked about my sight loss, travel and writing. Both events had gone well. Being asked to speak at a sight support group in a large institute in another city really excited me!

In previous years, I had spoken in physical venues to sight loss support groups through the BBVS (Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services). I really had a heart for this audience since I had been on the receiving end of that support, albeit with a counselor. Even before speaking, I felt connected.

Defining the Topic

When Janet and I talked over the phone, I asked what she wanted me to speak on and for how long. She said, “Hope. Opportunities. They need to know they can ‘make a difference’ in spite of their vision loss.” I had such a good feeling about her and them! She mentioned how amazing her group was. Then she told me to get ready because they asked lots and lots of questions since they are experiencing all stages of vision loss,  grief and frustration levels. I felt like I could see myself in a mirror.

When Janet said, ‘they need to know they can make a difference,’ I felt God had opened a door for me to share an experience of an incident that I had experienced that very afternoon! I believed God wanted me to share that story with the group. You can read about the experience here.

A Few Mix-Ups

On the appointed evening, I opened the zoom link. We had a problem. I couldn’t hear Dr. Robinson, who was hosting it. Apparently, he could hear me. I didn’t know what to do. I left the link and signed in again. I kept tapping the mic and trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I won’t say I never stressed out in using Zoom, but I hadn’t had any problems since I had my new computer nearly two years earlier. I could feel myself breathing faster. Then I tried turning up the volume on my keyboard. Strangely, I couldn’t find the two tiny keys on the very top row of the keyboard! My jaw dropped. Two were missing. And the two not found controlled the volume. I immediately knew what happened. My kittens had loosened them and knocked them on the floor. I had seen two minuscule black keyboard pieces of plastic earlier but had no idea what they represented and how integral they were to my livelihood!

I shook my head in exasperation, tapped an even smaller piece of rubber found under where the key should be. Lo and behold, I heard Dr. Robinson speaking! We had a good laugh over that!

But I didn’t see any audience. It turned out I had arrived an hour early. My 5:30 pm Zoom talk was scheduled for 6:30 pm EDT!

I could hear the hallelujah chorus in the background (in my head!) and told Dr. Robinson I would return in an hour. No one but him had witnessed my disastrous technological problem with the missing audio keyboard button. It seemed like only a bad dream.

“Thank you, God,” I whispered and relaxed for the next forty-five minutes. When I arrived to meet the low vision support group, Janet and Dr. Robinson again, my confidence had returned and I was ready to share.

After learning a little about the members, I gave my talk. They did have questions, and I could answer them. The feeling of sharing how God chose to empower me through a completely blind mobility instructor always sent shivers down my spine. God knew me so intimately; He knew that a sighted instructor would not leave the same impact on me. One of the members had read my memoir, and said it encouraged her to get the orientation and mobility training she needed to move forward. When we talked about “empowerment and making a difference, Dr. Robinson said that member who receive the O&M training was now encouraging others to take it on and move forward.

My Personal Take Away

God clearly showed me obeying Him by writing my memoir was only a start in His plan and that it by reading it, others would continue to create a ripple effect. It was one of the few times I felt God showing me a facet of His greater purpose. We are not always privileged to see His plan in action.

I answered their lively questions and at 8 pm, EDT, reluctantly signed off. The talk had been as interesting for me as it seemed to be for them! God demonstrated the skills I used in my classroom applied in this context as well. He had only exchanged the audience. The rapport, the shared control of the topic and real communication took place.

It took me awhile before I could stop smiling. Outside the window, the sky looked dark. But inside my heart, I was all lit up.

Please share an experience when you found God using your talents in a new context. I can’t wait to read what you have to say!

You have just read “Zoom Talk at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute” by Amy L. Bovaird © December 3, 2020. All Rights Reserved.