By Bill Blauvelt
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)
Life’s challenges can provide a unique opportunities to grow in contentment. Given that a person spends sixty percent of life at work, aging and physical impairment can appear counterproductive and lead to discouragement. At seventy, I am now almost completely blind, and I rejoice in working for our Father in ways I never dreamed.
I took early retirement from my profession as a teacher and rental property manager. In both professions, I was often able to extend mercy and generosity, even when not the most prudent business decision. Now, it is I who am the humble recipient of mercy and generosity.
I was unhappy when I had to give up driving eleven years ago. However, I have not missed a CIC meeting, a social event, a bridge game, or other activities for lack of a ride. Family, friends, and many brothers and sisters in the Lord are constantly offering rides. Moreover, I’ve met many delightful Uber drivers. I rarely travel alone and enjoy great fellowship with many good Samaritans on the road.
When I started using the white cane, I felt like a fraud. With the prompting of the Lord and encouragement from my family and friends, I accepted my situation and tried to stay positive. I was lovingly reminded that without the cane I would likely hurt someone or myself. I literally tripped and fell many times. It was also pointed out to me that without the cane I was often perceived as rude because I bumped into or cut in front of others.
After struggling with my pride the Lord helped me realize that I had received a gift in the form of my “Jesus stick.” I noticed that my need brought out Christ in others. People go out of their way to kindly assist me. Store clerks and strangers check to see how they might help. They open doors or touch my arm to let me know it’s safe to cross the street. Even when I am confident of what I am doing or where I am going, I experience the God’s grace and love in accepting help. Through prayer, reflection, and Scripture I have learned that our need for help has always been part of God’s design and that both the helpers and I are blessed in the exchange.
Accepting the Lord’s plan has opened new opportunities in my life. Rather than dwelling on what I can’t do, I have been able to focus creatively on new goals. Vision loss has placed new restrictions on life that highlighted all people’s need for independence, mobility, and self-actualization. In the past I had, no doubt, often taken these for granted. I have grown in empathy for others who struggle with limitations. My visual impairment has inspired me to reach out in numerous opportunities to mentor and counsel needy, as well as visually-impaired individuals.
One of the greatest challenges for the blind is isolation. At ninety-four, my father is completely blind. I saw his need for interactive recreation with family and friends. With neuropathy in his hands, Braille has proven very difficult for him to use. My dad loves cards. With a hole punch and standard playing cards, I invented a unique set of cards which enable the blind to have fun interaction. Seven years ago I started a nonprofit that has allowed me to distribute the cards throughout the U.S., Europe and even India.
With the encouragement of my daughters, I finally got around to writing and illustrating my children’s beloved stories for my thirteen grandchildren. Each one includes a “Scriptural moral” which has allowed me to share with them verses and thoughts that are important to me.
I give the Lord all the credit because inventing, writing, volunteering, and using my “Jesus Stick” were not on my radar ten years ago. Without my handicap, I would not have found these new ways to work for our Father. I am deeply content.