I was in my sixth year before I understood the meaning of the word “blind.” (2) Up to that time, I had romped and played with other children, climbed trees, jumped ditches, accepting bumps and bruises as part of the game, and having no sense of fear, since some child always held my hand. (3) In fact, in those days, all the children held each other’s hands, and it was easier going, so. (4) Is it not a pity that, in later life, we feel so self-reliant we are unwilling to admit that the way could often be made easier if we resorted to the childish game of holding hands, and moved forward together as we faced the more serious struggles of life. (5) My first realization of the meaning of blindness came when, one day, after hearing some people call me “poor child,” and expressing their sympathy to my mother, I asked if we were very poor, poorer than my playmates, and why I could not go to school. (6) My mother explained that we were no poorer than the others, that the ladies did not mean it in that way, but were sorry that I could not see and did not think I could ever go to school. (7) But my mother assured me that I was going to school, and that there I would learn to see with my fingers, better than the ladies did with their eyes. (8) My childish mind was aroused then, and I asked everyone what it meant to see, and soon realized that I did not know what “seeing” really was, at least, not in the sense the other children used the word. (9) I was filled with wonder, since my world had hitherto seemed so complete—I heard things, or felt things, or smelled things, and was satisfied—and yet there was another medium of knowledge entirely unknown to me, and until then unnecessary. (10) How eagerly I looked forward to the time when I should learn to see and my heart was filled with childish rapture on the day when I entered the school for the blind at Berkeley. (11) My first question, on meeting the Superintendent, was, “are you going to teach me to see?” (12) How well he performed this task, how wisely he guided my childish feet, how carefully he developed my eager mind, stimulated my ambition, and renewed my faltering courage, I did not realize until I was called upon to face life, with its trials and opportunities. (13) And here, where his work is so well known, I wish to pay my tribute of love and gratitude to Dr. Warring Wilkinson. (14) He was my great-hearted, great-souled teacher, father and friend.
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Five Lectures on Blindness. Kate M. Foley, 1919. (n.d.).
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