Thought for Today
“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”
~ Virginia Woolf
Butch and his family relocated here from West Virginia in the early eighties. It was a time of change for people from this area weary from decades of corruption, greed and a poor working environment, many longed for a better life for them and their families than what the coal mines had to offer. Chuck and Eddie, Butch’s sons in law, were employees for a manufacturer for which I was production manager. They were both very dependable, hard workers, very likable and pleasant to work with. Therefore, when I had a position to come open I asked if they knew anyone who might be interested in the job.
They both of course suggested Butch. They were jubilant in their explanations of how Butch could do just about anything he set his mind to. Honest, loyal, hard worker and dedication were their definitions of his character. I told them to have him come in and if he met the qualifications the job was his.
The next morning, I observed Chuck and Eddie entering the plant leading an older man on their arm. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Butch was blind. We worked with a lot of dangerous equipment and tools. In no way was this a good environment for a blind person. We weren’t set up for it, and adaptations would have to be made.
As I explained all of this to the three of them I could see the disappointment in their faces. Jobs were not easy to find in those days. I listened as they explained how it was even more difficult for a blind man. I remember how comfortable I was talking to Butch, just like Chuck and Eddie I found him very pleasant and likable.
We eventually hired Butch and he became an inspiration to all who worked there. He really could do anything he set his mind to. He adapted very quickly to his environment and we utilized him based upon his strengths. He filled various roles often-performing tasks left vacant due to other employees being out sick. He became the primary operator on a machine that before would have never been considered for a blind person.
I came to know Butch well, meeting his entire family. He and his wife Anna also blind, were raising seven children. Their two oldest were married and sharing the same house, which was a comfort to Butch and Anna as they were in their late fifties. Both have been blind since they were very young.
I enjoyed listening as Butch shared his stories of growing up, raising a family and living in the mountains of West Virginia as a blind man. Crawling on his hands and knees he planted a garden and raised vegetables for his family to eat. Counting his steps and listening to the tumbling waters he fished the creek that ran behind his house. A very talented wood worker, constructing furniture, and other items for daily use or sale, whatever he needs to do, he learned to do. There was no work for a blind man in the coal mine.
To Butch there was nothing spectacular about his accomplishments. He views himself an ordinary man who just happens to see, through his hands and ears. He said everything else is relative. He never requested special treatment only respect and understanding. He always did his job without complaint. He showed me that life is, about adapting to your environment and circumstances.
©2008 Charley Hoke