Be a Good NeighBEAR

Recently, in the midst of my college freshman journey, I participated in a community service extravaganza known as Be a Good NeighBEAR. With our football team being named the Mercer Bears, every on-campus activity correlates to this in some way. This particular activity is special to everyone on campus, and it is one of the largest traditions we currently have. Over 1,000 students came out before 8 a.m., on a Saturday morning to serve the surrounding communities in myriad ways. I was faced with a number of challenges along the way due to my blindness.

My group was assigned to a neighborhood that contained a lot of abandoned homes and a children’s park with broken glass strewn all over it. I had never been to this area before, so this was my first of many challenges on this excursion. I used my cane, which became my best friend by the end of the day, instead of often feeling like my enemy when I’m surrounded by my peers. Using my cane is an internal struggle for me because I never like to be singled out or thought of as inferior while around other students. Slowly, I am learning to overcome this obstacle, and I have been much more confident in my cane travel skills.

As the day progressed, we were assigned to pick up and dispose of garbage. While I was keeping up quite nicely with my peers, it seemed like there was some sort of tension. Finally, one of the girls explained to me that I was missing a portion of the trash. I promptly apologized and sought help with my duties from my peer advisor. I felt like this could be a great teaching moment, so I began to discuss my blindness with my classmates for the first time since I arrived at college. They were very receptive and helped me get through the remainder of our day of service.

Naturally, as a blind individual pursuing a passion for community service, there will be challenges. These challenges may make you want to give up on the project or give up on service entirely. Do not succumb to these feelings; Each challenge will present you with an even bigger reward and will also provide you with many opportunities to educate your sighted peers about blindness. Your service to the community matters, and it is time that we all go out and Be a Good NeighBEAR!