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The Blind By

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



T. P. O'CONNOR

How many things there are in this world which we fail to realise, and by failing to realise, fail to help. It is an old but an ever-true saying that half the world does not know how the other half live. This was brought home to me one evening in the House of Commons when my friend, Mr. Wardle, brought forward a motion with regard to the position of the blind in this country. It was quite by accident that I was present at the debate, for it came on unexpectedly and by a series of unexpected circumstances. It was perhaps even more of an accident that I took part in the debate.

Just two or three days before, I had received a message from my old friend, Mr. C. Arthur Pearson, asking me to come and see 1_m. I had not seen him for many years, and in the interval there had come upon him the disastrous calamity of an almost complete loss of sight. I need not say how touched I was when I found myself again in the presence of a man who was energy restless, inexhaustible, all embracing personified, and found him now with all the energy there still, but dependent for even the smallest things on the help of others. And yet I cannot say this meeting with my old friend was at all sad indeed, I went away rather cheered than otherwise. For I had been brought into contact with heroism and all that heroism can teach. Instead of being depressed, listless, It was while I was still under the influence of this strange meeting that I heard Mr. Wardle set forth the case of the British blind. What a shameful and humiliating story it was —seven thousand begging, five thousand in workhouses, three thousand partially and poorly employed. I could scarcely restrain my indignant protest against such a gross act of neglect by one of the most powerful and wealthy and also generous of nations to the most afflicted of its citizens.

Then came the War. The problem assumed quite a new and even more appealing aspect. For now we had blindness inflicted, not by the indifferent hand of Nature but by the hand of man, and inflicted on those who had gone forth to do battle for our liberties and our existence. Here again I had, through Mr. Pearson, the opportunity of realising the dreadful tragedy by being brought in contact with some of the poor blinded soldiers whom he had taken under his beneficent charge. He gathered them around me and I made them a little address, though indeed I rarely found it so hard to make an address. As the saying goes, my heart was in my mouth and I could scarcely command my words. I felt more like weeping than speaking, from sheer overflow of feeling at once of pity and of gratitude, for I stood before the men who had suffered that I and millions of others like me might live in peace in our own land.

Thus it was that I came into intimate contact with the problem of the blind. I am asked to add a few words to those that have come from many other pens to this volume published for their benefit. I do so gladly, for there is no work more sacred, none more patriotic, none a more palpable duty to all of us in this dreadful time of war than that of taking care of our blinded soldiers. Let us give-give-give yet again that these stricken ones may be afforded the opportunity to find in work, for which they require training, not merely a livelihood but that liberation from care and brooding, so that they may realise that the world has still' a place for them and a heart for them and a sympathy for them, which is as inexhaustible as the generosity of a generous nation.

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