Posts Tagged ‘confidence’

By Rachel Allee. Photo by Win Grant.

There’s nothing particularly amazing about Mark and Melody Roane.

Before you think this statement sounds odd, it’s worth noting that it comes straight from the couple themselves.

“We’re just plain old people,” says Melody with a smile. Some might disagree with that, because both Mark and Melody are blind. It’s hard to miss the long white canes they use to assist their navigation of the crowded hallways and stairways at FBC, but it’s also easy to stop there, assign a label or two, and move on.

calloutDealing with the assumptions and expectations of others is an everyday event for the Roanes. Both are frank about their respective conditions and welcome questions, which they try to handle with grace and good humor. They appreciate opportunities to educate other people about what it is like – and not like – to live without sight, and each has a personal story of how God has worked in their lives, regardless of blindness. “We’d like to be positive examples to people as to what is possible,” Mark says, “but we don’t want to be seen as ‘amazing.’”

Mark has Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary disease where the cells of the retina die prematurely. He found out in high school that he had it, and at twenty years old the disease began claiming his vision. He slowly lost his ability to read and see in front of him, though he could still see to the side. Over the years he has lost more of his vision and today he can only see dark, moving forms.

Thr Roanes don't limit God.Because he went blind later in life, he cannot read Braille as well as Melody, who lost her sight during childhood. This difference in experience makes Mark very interested in how blind children are educated in schools. “Melody was fortunate that she lost her sight so early,” he says. “She didn’t have the option of reading print. In schools today, if a child has some loss of vision, they don’t want to teach Braille. They want to maximize the [ability to read] print. In society’s eyes that’s a good thing, they’re reading, but they’re not keeping up with classmates. If they could read Braille they could keep up.”

“A lot of it comes back to expectations. If you expect people to be able to do certain things, then they tend to be able to do it, or at least come closer.” Mark loves to ski, though he hasn’t been for a while, and he also enjoys woodworking. He expects people to be surprised that he enjoys those kinds of activities, but he has a simple explanation: “We just have different techniques. We do the same things you do, typically. We just don’t see.”

If it hadn’t been for a period of blindness training, Mark might never have moved on in his life: “I remember thinking that if I held on for a few years, they’d have the cure for blindness. One day the realization came that I was a young guy; I needed to get off the couch and get on with life.” He found people connected with the National Federation of the Blind who were doing some of the things he wanted to do. They taught and shared their techniques with him, and he’s used that knowledge ever since to pursue his interests.

Melody, who lost her sight at eight years old after a bout with optic neuritis, is thankful for her sisters who, in the spirit of sibling rivalry, did not let her use blindness as an excuse. “It was a blessing for me because my sisters made sure that I did everything that they were supposed to do,” she says with a laugh. “They wanted everything to be fair, so it was a great thing for me.” After college she received training in blindness skills at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. “That was a turning point for me. I wanted to gain the knowledge to help people get the confidence and skills they needed to be successful. Confidence is a big part of it. Instead of teaching basic skills, they taught you to do more than you thought possible.”

Since then, she has helped train blind people in several states, including Louisiana, Alaska and Michigan. She moved to Virginia from Michigan in 2006 to become the director of the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired, and joined FBC in 2009. She loves traveling, spending time with family and friends, taking walks, politics and political discussions, and shopping. In particular, though, she relishes time spent at FBC, where she and Mark are members of the Mustard Seed class. “The in-depth Bible study challenges both of us to grow in our walks with Christ. It is very important to me to be involved in a church that is committed to the Great Commission, to going out and preaching the Gospel, to being the hands and feet of Christ to the community and the world.”

Mark and Melody understand that sighted people often wonder what it is like to be blind, so they recommend Kernel Books, located in the large print section of the church library, to anyone with questions. Kernel Books are a series of stories written by blind people who do the same everyday things that sighted people do. They were written to help educate people about what blindness is, and what it is not. “One story is about a lady fixing Thanksgiving supper for her family,” Mark says. “A lot of people think that a blind lady can’t do that, but sure she can. Another is about a blind guy who loves fishing and figured out a way to do it again.”

The Roanes agree that the best way to educate people about blindness, however, is to live life. “You might not ever get your sight back physically,” says Melody, “but [God] has given us skills and confidence to get out there and live the way we want to live. Sometimes we limit God in our understanding of what healing is, as if it’s just physical. His ways are not our ways.”

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