It doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy or appreciate the season. In fact, some local residents associated with East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind take this time to volunteer in the community and are overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.
Cazzie Kirk, 25, an outgoing employee at Horizon Industries, a place of employment for the visually impaired, has never seen the Christmas lights and decorations. At 9 months old, he was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma, a type of cancer in both eyes. However, not knowing what Christmas looks like never dampened his spirit.
“My vision impairment had never impacted my quality of life. I unwrapped presents like everyone else. I may have unwrapped the wrong gifts, though,” he joked.
For Kirk, the holiday is about family, the warm smells of Christmas treats and giving thanks.
“A lot of people will celebrate Christmas for different reasons,” he said. “That’s all it’s about for me. It’s the happiest time of the year for me.”
Markita Lane, a 36-year-old customer service manager at Horizon, is grateful to the company that gave her hope that she could continue to be an independent woman.
More than three years ago, the mother of two was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, which affected her optic nerve.
“I was a very active person, very independent,” she said. “I was always volunteering with all of my kids’ teams. It affected me because I couldn’t drive anymore. I felt it shattered my life. I thought I was done. I sat at home, in a dark house. I just sat there. I thought, ‘I can’t do anything now.’”
In addition, she said learned early on who her real friends were. But the despair was short-lived. Last year when Mrs. Lane learned of Horizon, she applied for a job.
“People are in your life for a reason, for a season or for a lifetime,” she said. “I’ve found a lot of lifetimes (here). It totally changed my life. It is an awesome place to work. ... My curse has turned into a blessing.”
The Lighthouse for the Blind ensures that its clients are independently integrated into the community, but also help others when necessary.
This year, they have been preparing and filling packages for Toys for Tots.
“It’s something we all decided to do with our company,” Mrs. Lane said.
Volunteering is for everyone, they said.
“Some people think what do you have to give? You’re blind,” Mrs. Lane said. “We give and we give and it feels so good.”
“You never know when you are going to be the one in need,” she said. “If you don’t have time, make time. Help other people out.”
Mrs. Lane chimed in, “It could easily be me and my children.
Kirk, a college graduate and music lover, was in a financial predicament not long ago. Since he gained employment with Horizon, he is now able to provide for his family. The father of three small children, he is elated that they can enjoy Christmas.
“I may not have a lot but what I do have, I take care of what I have to,” he said. “You don’t know really how fortunate you are. This might be a test to show others anything is possible.”
In the wake of the tragedies that unfolded last week in Newton, Conn., Mrs. Lane said it is important that people remain grateful in pite of what challenges they face.
“I’m thankful each and every day I still get to see (my children’s) little faces and their smiles,” she said.