by Zelda Gebhard
There are those who would like to categorize people and put each of us in a tidy box. I do not think it can or should be done!
When I was a small child, my mother allowed me to play in the button box. It was not a box but rather a 12-inch shallow metal tin with a lid that snapped on tight. It contained buttons collected by my mother and my grandmother before her.
It was the practice in those days that before no longer worn garments were discarded, the buttons were cut off. These were placed in the big round tin. There they would wait until such time as they might be utilized in a new garment or as a replacement on a shirt, dress, or coat with a missing button.
Not all buttons in the box were previously used. Some buttons were brand new and still attached to the card on which they were purchased. They were the “extras,” the ones unneeded and unused, for the time being, anyway. For example, when sewing a blouse needing five ½ inch diameter buttons, the selected one might come on a card with four on each card. Thus, two cards would be purchased and used, with three buttons left over. These would be stored in the button box to wait for their selection for another sewing project.
As a young child, I was intrigued by the variety of buttons in the box. There were large, heavy ones retrieved from a worn-out coat. Some were small and delicate, like the ones used at the neckline of a blouse. The buttons in the box not only varied in size, they also were of different colors and shapes as well. Yes, not all buttons are round!
I remember spending many hours admiring the countless buttons, imagining where they had come from and which ones might be chosen next for a new use. In an effort to keep me occupied and give my busy fingers something to do, my mother would thread a needle with some sturdy embroidery floss, and I would string the buttons I had sorted on it one at a time. On one occasion I might sort them by color and then on another day, I would sort by size.
I think those of us who are visually impaired are a little like those buttons in that we are different in many ways. Some of us have been around awhile with former roles or careers, some await unknown paths. Some are on that journey and others are just dreaming about it. Like the buttons, where we come from or our color does not make one of us more precious or sought after than the others.
There are some who would like to sort us and separate us by our sight loss like I used to sort the buttons. Let’s not allow ourselves to be put in groups according to our vision. Whether we were born without vision or lost it along the way, if the loss was gradual or immediate, partial, or total, we are in this “tin” of varying degree of blindness together. We are all different, and yet we have more in common than it may seem.
ACB is like my button box, the one passed down from generations before me. It is the place we can all be together, those with a past, those just starting out, and those just hanging around with no obvious purpose. There is a special place and purpose for each of us no matter how uniquely different we are. In fact, I believe it is those differences that make ACB a very extraordinary membership organization. Together, through our many diverse perspectives, we see things infinitely more clearly than we can alone.