Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Good and Bad (05/07/09)
TITLE: No Room for Sorrow
By Beth Muehlhausen
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At the age of six Kathy struggled to see clearly, although medical tests could not yet verify vision loss. Teachers reprimanded Kathy harshly, thinking she was lazy. In reality, her retinas were degenerating.
Kathy attended a blind school from sixth through twelfth grade. During this time, her very bad vision became worse. By the time she graduated from college, only vague light recognition remained. She could no longer see shapes or colors.
The human heart is fragile and vulnerable; the human spirit easily crushed. However, with counsel from a pastor, Kathy rallied and sought God’s will for her life as a blind woman. She believed God had more for her than retreat and self-pity. Although her options seemed limited, she knew His strength could move mountains. He would reconfigure this bad thing into something good.
As a blind young adult, Kathy was offered a contract by a principal willing to hire someone from a minority group, a gesture that might be seen as a feather in his own cap. She became a public high school English teacher.
Immature students immediately took advantage of Kathy’s blindness with disciplinary antics she was powerless to control. Colleagues tolerated her without recognizing her as an equal, and the local community shouted its own verbal scourging and crucifixion as parental demands sliced her to shreds. “How can a blind person do a good job of teaching my child? Impossible! I want him switched to another class!”
The first several years of teaching proved excruciatingly painful and emotionally disheartening. Kathy had to prove herself at every turn, while assuming an overloaded workload because of her sightlessness. It took her two or three times as long as other teachers to do her work. She hired college students and compensated them from her own paycheck to help with the visual aspects of grading.
God’s graces also showed up abundantly, however, to match to her need. Kathy learned to overcome discouragement by depending on generous measures of His mercy. Her faith grew, as did her childlike hope.
Over time, the pendulum began to swing. An aide was hired by the school system to assist Kathy with discipline issues and various sighted tasks. The students in Kathy’s classes loved her optimism and transparency, and they flourished as unspoken lessons in courage and tenacity were spliced into everyday academic pursuits. Word spread among the student body that something special was going on in Kathy’s classroom.
Positive reviews spread over time to other teachers and students’ parents, and the overriding public opinion began to shift to one of appreciation. Kathy not only continued to win the hearts of those in her classes, but she also earned various prestigious teaching awards. Newspaper, radio and television reporters interviewed her repeatedly. She was invited to speak at numerous events within the community. The local university asked her to share her secrets of success with future educators needing an inspirational vision. She was recognized at the national level as an outstanding teacher, and published a book of poetry depicting her blindness journey.
Knowing God’s plan might far surpass her own, she willingly embraced opportunities to serve others outside the classroom. She organized and orchestrated various benefits for local charitable projects, and played the piano at church – a task requiring a painstaking bar-by-bar Braille transfer process followed by time-consuming memorization.
Kathy lives independently in her own home with her current guide dog, Elias. In the midst of ongoing activity, she intuitively understands the height, depth, and breadth of the human experience. She is not afraid or ashamed to share the scope of life with soul mates also seeking to live life deeply, from the heart. When asked how she keeps the pace, she says, “Anything else is not really living. I’d rather be stretched until it hurts than just sit around, waiting to die.”
Recently Kathy was awarded a $25,000 grant to support what will become her second published book, this one about service animals and their owners. In her eighteenth year as a public high school teacher, this inspiring woman continues to advance in her endeavors from good to very good as disability is resurrected as victory.
Kathy has no room to entertain sorrow as a lifestyle, although she knows all too well the reality of limitation and suffering. Kathy’s example bears witness to a comment by St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, the patron saint of mercy, who said in her diary, “Sorrow will not establish itself in a heart which loves the will of God.”
Author’s Note: I’d like to invite those who are interested to visit Kathy’s latest web site, designed to help her gather information for her book on service animals and their owners: http://www.servicedogstories.com/
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