I don’t take my 20/20 sight for granted. I’ve worn glasses or contacts most of my life – as do my parents and both my brothers. But I do forget how life-changing my first glasses were. That moment when the world turned from blurry to clear was incredible, not to mention all the possibilities my newly-corrected vision afforded me. I was reminded of how important eyeglasses are to academic and personal success during a recent visit I made with Helen Keller International’s ChildSight® team to Thomas C. Giordano Junior High School in the Bronx, New York.
Our team had visited the school three years earlier, and our staff recognized some of the students. I met several children that day, including Escarla, an ebullient, confidant young girl. Now an eighth grader, Escarla was wearing the same pair of glasses we’d given her three years previously. The frames were bent, the lenses scratched, and the glasses bore the marks of rough-and-tumble urban life and schoolyard play. Even so, Escarla showed me her glasses as if they were diamonds. “See,” she exclaimed, “I still have my glasses! I wear them every day and never take them off unless I have to!”
Meeting Escarla was a poignant reminder for me. I got a new pair of glasses every year after my parents first took me to our eye doctor, and sometimes more frequently if I were careless and broke my glasses. They knew that good eyesight was just as essential as books and pens for my success in school.
For Escarla, it seemed that a new pair of glasses every year was not possible in her family’s budget. In tough economic times like these, more and more children just like Escarla are counting on programs like ChildSight® to provide them with basic vision health care. Parents have lost jobs and health insurance. States and municipalities have cut funding for health services, and vision screenings are often the first programs to go, even in the 40 states where vision screening is mandated. ChildSight® is too often the only source of vision screening for kids in the seven states where we work − and it’s one of the few that provides everything, from screenings and glasses to referrals for other eye problems when needed – free of charge.
If you could bottle the energy that radiated from Escarla when she talked about using her glasses to read her favorite books, the elixir would be priceless – such raw hope and enthusiasm is infectious. It definitely inspired me!
Do you remember that first moment after you or your child tried on new glasses? If so, tell us in the comment section about your story of being able to see clearly for the first time.