Mary Ellen Frost speaks to the Women Concerns Committee Sister Power Breakfast at national convention in Minneapolis Minnesota
At the 2016 ACB National Convention held in Minneapolis Minnesota this July, Mary Ellen Frost spoke to an audience of blind and visually impaired women about how her low vision affected her challenges in life.
The following is her speech:
When I was asked two years ago to speak before this outstanding group of women, I pleasantly declined, thinking you women have accomplished much more in your daily life, business and the work force than I ever could. You have been able to develop skills and come to the forefront in your communities and beyond. As I was preparing for today, one of my morning scriptures was Proverbs 27, which is one of my favorite books of the Bible. It was basically saying let others praise you and not from your own lips, so I wondered how I was going to share with you about myself. After much thought and family conversations I Now feel I am able to stand before you ready to tell my story.
I was born albino, which means I have little to no pigment in my hair, skin and eyes. My eyes are extremely sensitive to light. It took years for my parents to make the adjustment; I was different than the other children in the neighborhood. My parents were young teenagers in love and at a loss about how to handle the situation. By the time I was five my parents had separated and divorced and my mom was left to raise two girls. My younger sister carried all proper genes, golden skin, brown eyes and auburn hair; and was assigned the task of making sure her big sister was not hurt by her surroundings. I often tripped, bumped into things and definitely could not cross the street safely. It was not until I was in the third grade that a teacher reached out for help on my behalf, and I entered the division of the blind system in Massachusetts, where I grew up attending public school. I walked the fine line of having too much sight to attend the Carroll center, but still fell in guidelines of being legally blind. It was not until I was in the tenth grade when another teacher created the final exam with extra large print, and with that assistance I was able to receive my first ever “A” grade. At that point, I then realized that I had potential, and with the right tools, I could achieve. I did receive my high school diploma, only getting by with low grades and words imparted to me; I would never be able to further my education or obtain a regular job in the work force. I had been “main streamed” in school before it became popular and before the (ADA), Americans with Disability Act was effective.
Please allow me to pause and interject something here. Before graduating, I was assigned a social worker from the Massachusetts Division of the Blind by the name of Marjorie Gordon, may she rest in heavenly peace. Truly this woman was an inspiration in my life, and as life has its turns, just a few years ago I became acquainted with a lady from Massachusetts who relocated to Maine and also had Marjorie as a counselor. We we’re so happy to have the chance to exchanged stories. We do live in a small world. So, what were my options? With Marjorie’s help I acquired a job within the (B E P). Business Enterprise Program, working at a cafeteria in a mill.
After a short time I left this employment and attended a school in Boston called the Boston school of Pediatts. Its purpose was to train people to become a qualified professional baby nurse. I passed all the requirements given me, received a white nurses cap and diploma. I love babies and small children. Their needs are simple, and one could almost always be up close and personal, which would be well within my range of sight, but this career was very short lived.
At this point in my life, I felt that I was qualified to care for babies and young children; however I soon found that I was not to be the judge of my own qualifications. Their parents were and should be, judge of that. Their main concern was the safety of their child, not to treat me equal. I could not convince them that their child was as safe with my care as they would be in the care of a fully sighted person. I felt that I was not being treated equal. Though at that time I was very hurt, I was not being treated unfairly. My husband and I have had many discussions on the difference between fair and equal. “FAIR & EQUAL” are not the same and should not be confused. Over the years, I have been mulling this topic over in my mind, of how it applies to life. We are taught that all persons are created equal. But it is “the people”, the human effect that decides what is FAIR. Was it fair that I was born different, that my parents divorced, that I had eyes watching me every minute for my own safety that I was unable to do things or go on my own as I pleased? Maybe not.
Equality in human beings does not exist. The truth is none of us are equal, and that is a great and wonderful thing. We all are unique in our skills, our abilities and the challenges we encounter. Equal means things are exactly the same; fair takes on your personal needs. We all have different needs, therefore, for our leaders, teachers, employers and our government to treat all people equal would not be fair. When I was in school I was not treated equal. The state of Massachusetts provided a reader to help me keep up my studies, paid for my summer camp and helped me acquire my first employment. I think being treated fair helped me to get started on the road to independence. Let us remember that at the end of the day we should strive not to treat one another equal, but to treat everyone fair.
AS my life moved on, and like in all good stories, the fairy tale came true. I met the man of my dreams and husband of 51 years. He has faith in me enough for both of us. He entrusted me to raise three wonderful children who have given us 9 amazing grandchildren; and thus far, the albino gene has not been seen again.
My life did a 360 degree turn, away from the person who was naive, shy, timid, and afraid to venture out of her comfort zone, to a fly by the seat of her pants kind of girl. I have learned to make the most of the moment, accept challenges, step out of my comfort zone, and here I stand before you today.
Twenty years after I graduated from high school, I entered the University of Maine Farmington, in the Early Childhood Development Program. I am proud to say I graduated with honors, along with an associates degree. As my children were entering college I wanted to help with the family expenses. I had the opportunity to work in community and home day care situations. I started taking on positions of leadership in my church and community organizations. I gained confidence, respect and maturity very late in life but WOW what a prize! True happiness can only be found within you. Make it happen, live it and enjoy each day as it unfolds before you. Take part in the experience of living a happy life.
You are here in this room ladies because you are a leader. You are here my friends because you choose to BE more, you choose to DO more and as sisters, you accept more. You have joined the ranks of the outstanding women around you here today, and I am honored to be part of the experience. I thank you for the invitation to be present with you.
I would like to leave you with the following because I love cooking so much. I have a recipe for you that binds us together as SISTERS!
Mix well into each day one part of Faith
One part of Patience, one part of Courage,
And one part of work.
Add to each day one part of Hope,
Faithfulness, Generosity and Kindness.
Blend with one part Prayer, one part Meditation,
And one Good Deed.
Season with a dash of Good Spirits,
A sprinkle of Fun, and a pinch of Play,
and a cupful of Good Humor.
Pour all this into a vessel of love. Cook thoroughly over radiant Joy, garnish with a smile,
And serve with
Quietness, Unselfishness and Cheerfulness.