Page 23 - issue_4

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the Hoot
23
A staff member drove Engel around, “doing donuts, driving backward down
the streets, doing anything possible to confuse me.”
After an hour, he was dropped off and told he had to find his own way back to
the school. During what turned out to be a two-mile journey, he was only
allowed to ask one person, one question. It took him two hours, but Engel
made it back and was allowed to graduate.
His next step was to train to use a seeing-eye dog. While he was in New Jersey
for the training, he heard another student talking about losing his sight in an
automobile accident.
After speaking to the man, he learned that a year and a half before, on Oct. 9,
while he was lying face down in a street in St. Louis, this man was doing the
same thing hundreds of miles away in Texas. By coincidence, they both ended
up at the same training. They became friends and seven years later, the man
introduced Engel to the woman who would become his wife.
Engel finished training and was finally ready to get back to college.
The first year back in Springfield was one of the most disheartening times for
Engel; there was not a single night he was sober. He was stuck in a depressed
state until a friend asked him to work at a camp with him.
The first thing that went through Engel’s mind was, “How is a blind guy going
to work at a summer camp? What, am I going to lifeguard?”
Despite his doubts, Engel agreed, and it turned out to
be one of the best times of his life. He taught archery, how to build campfires,
and even lifeguarded.
At the end of the summer, the counselors were heartened by all of the lives
they touched. Then they got a letter from a camper’s mother. She wrote about
how much her son hated camp because everyone teased him for being over-
weight. It was the worst experience of his life.
The counselors felt they had failed
that little boy until they came
to the last paragraph of
the letter. The only good
part, said the little
boy, was hanging
out with Marcus.
“He treats me like
everyone else,
because he can’t
see how fat I am.”
This is when Engel knew he could have an impact on anyone, despite his
disabilities. All summer he had been concerned with “How do I make myself
feel better?” and in the end, he had made someone else feel better.
Before the crash, Engel had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. He was
just gliding along, enjoying the best years of his life. But after the crash (he
refuses to call it an accident when someone drives drunk), he was asked to
speak at a graduation about his experience.
He found his calling. He realized he could make a difference in hundreds of
peoples’ lives, and he made it his goal to become a professional speaker. Now,
while maintaining a busy speaking schedule, he also is a graduate student at
Columbia University in New York City.
He has frequently been asked his feelings toward the drunk driver.
“I don’t have time for hatred and anger; that would keep me away from my
goals,” Engel said.
Another common question is, “If you could go back and change what hap-
pened, would you?” For Engel, the answer is a simple no.
“I don’t try to change the past. Sometimes I think, ‘This would be so much
easier if I could see,’ but I’ve learned so many lessons because of it.”
Change the things you can.
Did you know...
314 million people in the world are
visually impaired and 45 million are
blind
80 percent of all visual impairment can
be avoided or cured.
Cost of a lifetime of support and
unpaid taxes for one blind person:
$916,000
Projected number of seniors who will
be blind:
Year 2015: 1.6 million
Year 2030: 2.4 million