Have you heard of an organization named Heart of America? If not, please take time to learn of the wonderful work they accomplish. According to their website, they were founded in 1997, six years prior to my stroke, with a mission to “teach the values at the heart of America and to help people, particularly children, learn that they help themselves when they help others.” One of their main areas of focus is to provide children in need everywhere with the tools to read, succeed and make a difference. I encourage you to look up their wonderful projects and see how you can help be involved in the process of touching lives. I know that they have touched many lives with their library projects alone. They have certainly touched mine.
In late 2007, the library was closed at the school my children attended due to district budget cuts. For a year I fought, begged, pleaded and fought some more to have the doors reopened. I succeeded. Amazingly though, this came with me being selected as the new librarian. It did not seem possible. I have prosopagnosia. I cannot recognize a face even if I see it on a daily basis. I only knew the teachers’ names because of their rigid assigned class time to be in the library. The students I only knew because of the library cards they would hand me with their names written on them. With hemianopia, my world is always half black. I have lost my left peripheral sight. During story time, the kids would giggle as I skipped part of their story. They always thought I was teasing to see if they were paying attention. They never realized that I was only confused because a section of the story was missing. When part of your sight has been completely lost, it can make reading a challenge at times. But I knew that those books and the chance for the kids to sit and read again were more important than any trials that may evolve. I fought hard for those kids. I worked hard to get the books ready for their anxious hands and inquisitive eyes. The library, as limited as it might have been, turned out to be a great success.
Then entered Heart of America and Target. They work together to create amazing libraries through Target School Library Makeovers. They have now fulfilled my dream. Unveiled this Friday, the kids will have the opportunity to sit in new comfortable chairs. They will have an array of new, hot off the press books they have been eager to read. Every child will have a place in which they can store their dreams and allow their imaginations to run wild. Heart of America and Target allowed me to complete this dream and offer the kids all of this. I, a person who no longer can recognize a face nor has the ability to spontaneously see many written words, am getting ready to see the ribbon cut to a room that had been void of voices, void of lights and holding only untouched books.
My final lesson for the library, before we had to make a military transfer from the area, was a simple one. I explained to the kids that the child in the wheelchair may have a limited physical body, but their mind can be fascinating. That the deaf person who talks only with their hands still has amazing things to say – you just have to learn to listen a little differently. And a librarian that may use a white-tipped cane to find her way around a busy airport might not have sight but still can possess a powerful vision. Now with the Heart of America and Target, all these kids that I care so deeply about are preparing to enter into a new world only limited by where their imagination will carry them. They can now see the full meaning of that last life lesson: Look at my ability. Do not judge me by my disability. A vision is very powerful. Thank you Heart of America and Target for the library makeovers across America and helping so many dreams come true!
NOTE: This post is being republished to celebrate the one year anniversary of Miller’s library. The lights in this room continue to shine every day as kids race towards the shelves to discover the next adventure these books and their imaginations will take them on.