Teach a Man to Fish

By Christine Hunsinger, President

Surely we all know the old proverb, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” I think that it is helpful if we all use that positive perspective of learning how to do something rather than letting someone do something for us when we don’t know how to do it.

I don’t always do what I think is best either. Here is an example. I get on the city bus and wave my fare card at the card reader. It dings, and I turn to find a seat near the front of the bus. The seats are folded up on the side that I choose because someone who used a wheelchair last sat in that section. I start to look for the latch so I can put the seat down. Someone quickly comes over and says, “I’ll get that for you.” I say thank you. And yet again, I haven’t learned where the latch is on that seat.
This probably happens a couple of times a month when I ride public transportation. I’d much rather put the seat down for myself, but I always feel too rushed to learn where the latch is, and someone is offering to do it for me. IF I do it for myself, it’s just one of those little things that may tell an observer that I do things for myself when possible.

Here’s another example. I arrive at my destination when I am out travelling with my cane. I reach for the door handle of the outside door of the building so I can enter. A voice says to me, “I’ll push the button for you.” I didn’t even know that the building had an automatic door. It’s a building that I go to often, but I usually use the other set of doors. I then say, “Show me where the button is so I can find it easily next time.” That means the next time that I enter that building I have the choice to use either set of doors unless one is locked.
Ask yourself, “What things do I ask other people to do for me that I could just learn how to do myself?”

Are there socks that you put aside until someone with sight comes by to help you sort them? Could you get some sock holders or even safety pins, so that the next time you sort them with help, you put the socks in pairs that you hopefully will remember to reunite after waring them, but before you do the laundry?

Do you routinely ask friends who visit to drop your mail into a mailbox? Instead, ask someone to show you where the nearest mailbox is so you can drop off the mail yourself and get a little exercise, even if the reason that person came by was to help you pay those bills you have to mail.

What about household chores? Do you know how to change that furnace filter, or do you wait for someone to come around and change it for you? The first time my electric hot-water heater stopped heating, I called the repair man. When he opened the service panel, a little breaker on the thermostat had popped. He showed me where it was, and he told me to check that in the future before calling for repairs. He also had to show me where the screws were to take off the service panel. I was a new home-owner then. His advice worked.

Doesn’t that low-battery beep on the smoke detector bother you? Do you wait until a friend comes by to change the battery, or do you get up on a safe ladder or stepstool and change the battery yourself?

Now, let’s talk a little about kitchens and food since the beginning of this article had to do with food so to speak. Is there something that you don’t do in the kitchen because it just seems too hard to do, so you wait to go to someone’s house to eat that delightful thing that you really wish you could make yourself? Does it require a kitchen skill you have not mastered? Reach outside of your comfort zone and ask your peers how they take care of this kind of barrier to gastronomic joy. You have peers and friends in PCB who have taken on all kinds of challenges, and there are books and magazines with suggestions about how to solve those annoying problems which could be considered cracks in the sidewalk of life. If your friends and peers can’t give you enough help, check at the library for books about practical problem-solving for people with vision loss. You may find an interesting way to accomplish one of those tasks, and you could then share it with the rest of us.

Remember, I’m not encouraging people with balance or mobility issues to climb up to change a smoke detector, and I’m not advising people to cross a busy uncontrolled intersection to mail a letter. I am encouraging people to think first about projects they can learn to take care of for themselves instead of asking others to take care of the project for them. Also, think about how often you will want to perform this task. If the first time is the only time you will do it, I’d say don’t waste brain cells learning how to get that job done. We don’t always understand what we are truly capable of, so think about these questions. Don’t expect to do something that is beyond your capabilities but do push yourself to learn what your capabilities are.

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