Friday, 2 September 2011

THE COLD WIND OF FREEDOM.

Remember back in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed? People in satellite countries and former USSR republics immediately found themselves without masters. For the first time in their lives, these folks had to make their own decisions rather than relying upon the government.

Like the former citizens of the Soviet Union, I had to learn quickly how to make my own personal decisions. In many cases, people assumed that I ought to know how to do this without being told. From Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), here's an excerpt that demonstrates how unprepared I was in 1970 for freedom.

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Because of being cloistered at Jericho, I lacked the social graces and mobility skills which children learn as a matter of course. The culture shock of returning to the public school system proved difficult for me to cope with. The tumult from hundreds of children alone disoriented me. I forgot how loud the hallways became when classes ended. Since we now went to different rooms for every subject, I needed to learn quickly where each was.

As I habitually walked to school when I attended grade one in Fort Saskatchewan, I assumed that I was supposed to travel the same way to my new school. I came in late the first few days since I kept underestimating the time it would take to walk there.

My teacher sent me to the principal's office on the third morning. "You are expected to be in class on time. Why were you late again today?" he demanded as he glared at me through his black horn-rimmed glasses..

"I live fifteen blocks away and it takes a long time to walk that distance."

"Why don't you take the bus then?"

"I don't know how," I admitted as I stared at the floor.

"You'd better learn to take the bus or find a ride with someone. You can't keep coming late to school."

My mobility skills were so deficient that I had no clue regarding how to catch a bus. The first time I tried, I did not know where to deposit the fare. "Stop fooling around," the bus driver demanded as I searched for the box. In desperation, I placed the coins on his hat which he left on the dash board.

Nobody told me that I qualified for a special bus pass which would allow me to ride for free. "Why don't you have a CNIB pass?" one driver asked. "If you can't see well, you should be allowed to have one."

Mom set up an eye exam appointment and, once the proper forms were filled out, I was the proud owner of my own pass. The freedom of not having to pay fifteen cents per ride as well as being able to travel wherever I wanted delighted me.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Click here to read more about this compelling story. You may also e-mail me directly if the comment form doesn't work.