Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Born at the Right Time

I’m working on a novel about a family raising a visually impaired daughter around the turn of the 20th century. As a woman who grew up with low vision, I have always wondered what it would have been like to live during a different time period with the same limitations. No matter which alternative period I choose, I always come to the same conclusion—that I am eternally thankful to God for allowing me to be born in the late 20th century.

Sure I started school at a time when visually impaired students still struggled to fit into a “normal” classroom. My parents waited eight years to learn the name of my vision problem and heard more than their share of discouraging predictions for what I would (or would not) accomplish. Still, I attended public school, graduated from high school, participated in drama, choir, and public speaking, and earned a college degree. I got married, have worked at least part time for most of my adult life, and have two amazing sons—who, by the way, have perfect eye sight.

Like me, my main character Rose is born with Congenital Achromatopsia. Only she is born in 1893 San Francisco. From what I have learned so far, Rose most likely . . .
Would never have a name for her sight limitation
Would not go to school unless her parents wanted to send her to a school for the blind
Would not know that Achromatopsia is NOT progressive and therefore might live in fear of losing her sight completely
Would not have dark sunglasses to protect her eyes against extreme light sensitivity or any other vision aids (except perhaps reading glasses that may or may not have been strong enough)
Would probably be seen as unintelligent because of her inability to learn her colors (due to her lack of functioning cone cells, which few eye doctors understood)

Rose’s story takes place during the eugenics movement, meaning that . . .

Girls like Rose would not be expected to marry
Those with disabilities were seen as inferior human beings that shouldn’t reproduce
Rose’s parents might even be pressured to have her sterilized

It wouldn’t matter that Rose . . .
Had creative gifts
Was intelligent
Had learned to adapt through strong listening skills and a great memory
Could read large print and write because her parents insisted on teaching her
Had the same desires for romance and love as other girls her age
Was strong, hard-working, and determined to overcome her limitations
Or possibly even had a young man in love with her

She would be destined for a life at home (because her parents refused to send her to an institution), pitied by some and seen as a burden by others.

So what will happen to Rose? You'll have to find out. And so will I (because I haven't officially decided yet).

As sad as this research has been, it has offered me endless reasons to rejoice in God’s grace and goodness in my life. He knew exactly when I needed to be born in order to accomplish His plan for me. Like Rose, I was blessed with loving parents who refused to listen to the nay-sayers. But my parents had more options and choices than Rose’s had. I had more hope for overcoming a limitation that God clearly allowed for a reason. What an incredible thought!

Thank you, God, for allowing me to be born when I was. Thank you for placing each of us where and when you want us on the timeline of your plan, and for allowing even history to stand as a reminder of your mercy.


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