Attending school or having a career is a crucial part of one’s overall success, but participating in extracurricular activities is also vital to a happy life. Activities might help to increase one’s skills in a certain area, can allow for relaxation, and almost always offer the chance to make new friends. In today’s post, I will highlight some of the ways in which I am active in the community.
For the past two summers, I have participated in the Carroll Center for the Blind’s Recreational Sailing Program. This program, which meets weekly in Boston, offers three hours of learning and fun in a sailboat. In each boat, two or three people who are blind are accompanied by two sighted people to learn the intricacies of sailing. I’ve learned to adjust the ropes to make the sails higher or lower. I’ve also learned to use the tiller which steers the boat. Each week, I come away with a better understanding of sailing and a feeling of accomplishment knowing I am slowly perfecting a new skill.
I am an active member of my church where I frequently proclaim the scripture readings. Each month, the Xavier Society for the Blind produces the Sunday readings in braille. The church secretary e-mails special announcements, which the lector needs to read, and I transcribe these into braille prior to the Mass. Not only does this community involvement let me be active in the church, it also allows people to see firsthand the abilities of people who are blind. Frequently, parents bring their children over to meet me to let the children feel the braille or ask questions about blindness. I am always thrilled to have these conversations, as these interactions help increase people’s understanding of our abilities and feel more comfortable when meeting someone who is visually impaired.
Community involvement does not always go smoothly. A few years ago, I auditioned for a select choir. The director of the choir told me he does not accept people who are blind and that I would hinder the group’s performances. I had sung in several other community coral groups, and was shocked by this gentleman’s reaction. Although I highlighted my abilities, his opinion was not changed. Fortunately, I found another community chorus where I was given a warm welcome.
At the onset, getting involved in a community group can feel overwhelming or intimidating. Going into a room where you don’t recognize anyone’s voice and are unsure how you’ll be accepted can place knots in your stomach. However, each group has offered the chance to expand my horizons and my “comfort zone.” Over time, I have made friends and occasionally meet these people outside of the group setting for a visit. I hope your involvement in a school or community activity will be an experience you’ll treasure for years to come.