The Ripple Effect

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The first week of my trip here has been unforgettable. Working with ASB, Barb Calhoun from Let’s Get Artsee and Ronee and the team at the Conklin Davis Center for the Visually Impaired has been a huge success. This was the launch of my good friend Barb’s first event for her non-profit Let’s Get Artsee not only making art and poetry accessible for all but helping those who live with sight loss and other disabilities share their experiences and the things they love about their lives with the world through art.

Now this wasn’t my first time teaching my poetry workshops and I’ve seen first-hand many times the powerful way poetry can enable others with no previous experience of writing to share things they haven’t talked about before and in the workshops that took place this week this was a prime example.

In the three sessions I ran most of those attending had never written poetry before. A large percentage of them were completely blind and many had additional needs or secondary disabilities. The team at the Conklin Davis Center had everything on hand that the participants would need to create their pieces such as braillers, pens and paper or electronic devices to enable them to dictate, but it was my job to give them the inspiration and encouragement to open their hearts and let the words spill out. I find the best way to do that is to share my own story with them. Take them back to the beginning of my journey of when I was first diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and how I became known as The Blind Poet. Showing them that even though I struggled with anxiety and depression due to losing my sight that I didn’t lose hope and eventually that hope lead me to the person I’ve now become. For me inspiring others means sharing the darkest moments I’ve experienced and how no matter what we go through eventually there’s always light.

We had some incredible moments during my poetry workshops.  I helped a young girl with complex additional needs as well as being blind create a beautiful heartfelt piece of poetry about her graduation, something she was truly excited for as well as another piece paying an emotional tribute to the lady who’d been her support worker for a while but was moving on. We had others share poems about their children and loved ones who were no longer with us. The room experienced every emotion. One moment there were tears and then laughter, but everyone walked away with a smile and a sense of strength and resilience for whatever life puts in their way next.

One young gentleman I met there read a poem about his determination to inspire others and how he was proud of his strength. He saw himself as a king and he truly held himself like one. It was the second time I’d had the pleasure of meeting him and he came to the last session wearing one of my Blind Poet shirts which he’d purchased on my first visit.

Seeing how inspired he was by my story and my words reminded once more that the ripple effect of the things we say to others and how I’ve shared my poetry with the world is something that can travel further and deeper into the mind and hearts of others than I realize.

I’ll never take for granted how the poetry I write

can be the inspiration to those who lose their sight

Just to say to someone else that I still struggle too

yet despite my anxiety there’s nothing I can’t do

It’s nothing to be ashamed of to admit anxiety

or battling with depression for the sights no longer see

Yet there is still a stigma about talking sharing this

It’s perfectly all natural to feel sad for all we miss

So, every day I write about the deepest of my heart

of how each poems message is more than just the art

It’s knowing that we’re not alone in all that we go through

and when the days are darkest always follows light anew

The ripples in the water will eventually be waves

a simple poems message be the things that your heart craves

For this is something anyone out there can really do

I hope the ripple I create will make its way to you.