I recently had the honor of spending a little time with one of the people we serve. Carol (not her real name) wanted to meet at a local library, which initially was a little surprising to me because I understood she is blind. As I saw her come across the room with her walker, I thought, “Oh she is only partially blind” because she had no problem finding me. As we found our meeting room and sat down, she told me her story.
Carol, a former scientist by trade, had the misfortune of being in a horrific automobile accident that killed her husband and left her in a coma for days. When she awoke, she found she had absolutely no sight and was totally blind. I was astounded. Since that day, she has learned to navigate the world by sound and counting steps.
I expect most of us may have become bitter or jaded if this happened to us. We might feel justified if our family and lives had been turned upside down like Carol’s had. Carol now manages to get by with subsidized housing, Medicare and $802 a month in public benefits. That’s it – $802. However, Carol is far from bitter- it is not in her DNA. She has an inspiring and optimistic attitude. Everybody has “stuff”; her “stuff” may present challenges, but she has chosen to focus on living. She says she lives a simple life and is happy. She doesn’t fret about having to pay someone $20 to read her mail to her, or the fact that the email voice service she uses doesn’t work all that well, or that she has to pay $650 to take an Uber ride to Cleveland for medical treatment (because she needs someone to help her navigate the big hospital once she gets there). She calls orders in for groceries but can only pick them up on certain days because of transportation problems. These are just a few of the obstacles Carol has to overcome every day.
Carol does not use the monies in her trust much at all. Nevertheless, her trust is extremely important to her and she says this is her emergency and retirement money. Without it, her financial hope for the future would be scary. She knows the money in her trust is safe and available to her anytime she really needs it.
This experience reinforces why The Disability Foundation exists, to help people living with disabilities establish a special needs pooled trust to enhance their lives while at the same time also protecting their public benefits.
As Carol and I parted that day at the library, I realized I had been given a gift of inspiration. I feel fortunate to have met Carol and am honored we can serve her.