Tuesday, April 26, 2011
It's me again-Jesse! You all remember me, don't you? I'm Zack's little brother and my mom Audrey Gunter’s special, furry lap warmer. Although I've only had my new mom for a few months, we've really been lots and lots of places and done lots and lots of things. Folks always say how handsome and sweet I am. Mom just smiles, nods her head and tells them that I'm just as good as I look, too! Mom really loves me and I really, really love her too!
This week I've been taking Mom down to the Judicial Center on Broad Street, where we've been summoned for Jury Duty. Boy, were those guys ever surprised to see me there! I'm not sure exactly why, but they just couldn't understand that, even though Mom's eyes are broken, she can still do lots of things, especially with me guiding her! They act as though they really want to help her, but just don't know how. Instead of asking her, they grab her arm, shoulder or elbow. Sometimes a pair of "helpful Helens" will run up to us, each grabbing one of Mom's arms and begin pulling on her-most of the time in different directions.
"Hey, guys! That's my mom-not a wishbone! If she needs your help, she'll ask. Meanwhile, she has me and I can take her anywhere she needs to go, thank you very much!"
Today we returned to the Judicial Center in a Sheriff's car and there was a Deputy Sheriff waiting on us at the curb, thanks to Uncle Bill. When Mom told him how we'd toured North Charleston, West Ashley and James Island before our paratransit bus finally reached Broad Street, Uncle Bill fixed things. He said that we shouldn't have to depend on a bus to serve on a jury panel.
Anyway, things were a lot different today. We entered the building through that funny revolving door and nobody stopped us today. I guess they saw how good I worked yesterday and they figured I could handle things just fine.
The folks behind the security desk were kinder to Mom, too. Not one time did anyone pull on her arm or shoulder! They just patted their legs, like Mom told them, and off we went! I think they were competing against each other to see who could work with me!
"It's about time you guys got the message! You lead and I'll guide my mom. That's my job!"
We signed in when we reached the Jury Assembly Room and the ladies there were great! Each one of them bent across the table and watched as I led Mom to our chair.
"Can't talk now, girls! Got to be sure Mom gets to where she needs to be. Besides, can't you see the big sign on my harness? Sheeze! "
We sat in that room for a couple of hours and other folks were getting impatient. Not me, though! Oh, no! I had a nice carpet to lie down on and my mom's feet to use as a pillow.
One of the bailiffs came out and told us to take a 30 minute break. "Break from what? All we've been doing is sitting and talking! Let's get this show on the road, guys! Let's get moving!"
Mom and I remained there during the break and, after about an hour of more sitting, that same fellow announced that we should go to lunch!
"Lunch! Okay! I'm all for that!" Too bad Mom wasn't hungry, so we just stayed there in that big room.
A lot of others chose to remain there, too. The lady in front of us just couldn't help herself, and she began asking Mom about me. She seemed genuinely interested in how I was specially bred, born, raised and trained as a guide dog, and how much I help my mom. She was particularly moved when Mom told her about my big brother, Zack, and that he'd actually led her to God. Curious, she listened intently as Mom told her about meeting Aunt Mary Kay and how she'd prayed for and with Mom, back in 2002. Tears streamed down her face when Mom recalled Zack guiding her down the church aisle to the altar, where she accepted Jesus as her Savior. She laughed aloud when Mom told her the part about Pastor Bobby wanting Zack to jump into the Baptismal Pool because he'd never Baptized a dog before.
"Yep, that Zack is a character, alright! He may be laid back, but he really loves to swim and to eat! Boy, does he love to eat!"
As they talked, they discovered the nice lady went to school with Mom's niece, Wendy, and she knew a lot of folks Mom knows. The conversation really got interesting when Mom told her about Aunt Laurel's Christian Music Ministry, her outreach and Chaplaincy for Blind Youth. I could hear the love in her voice when Mom described each of the kids and how Aunt Laurel had improved their lives. She told them about how Aunt Laurel has improved their cane skills; taught them how they can live independently (like she does); how to use a computer and how she works to improve their Brailing skills. More importantly, Mom told her about how Aunt Laurel is so interested in their spiritual needs and about the accessible Vacation Bible School she hosted, where one of her "kids" accepted Jesus.
By this time, tears were streaming down the nice lady's face and another nice lady had joined us. The second woman was a little older and a lot quieter than the first; but her love for the Lord was loud, though! In no time. Mom and those other 2 ladies were holding church services right there in the Jury Assembly Room-laughing and trading stories and praising God! I just laid under Mom's chair and soaked it all in. I love to hear Mom talk about God and how He uses everyone if they'll only let Him.
Another bailiff came out and began calling names for people to report upstairs. Soon, we were following them into a tiny courtroom. Someone brought Mom a chair and sat it in the aisle so I'd have more room.
"Thank you, sir! I'd never have fit in that little bench over there!"
The judge began asking if anyone knew anyone involved in the case-the attorneys, witnesses or defendants He asked if anyone had any reasons as to why they felt they could not render a fair and impartial verdict if selected to serve on the jury. When he asked if anyone had any close relatives in law enforcement, Mom and I stood up, along with about a dozen other folks.
Each had to tell the court how they were related and what agency they worked in. Then, the bailiff began calling names and those folks had to get up, walk to the front of the room, turn around and face the prosecuting and defense attorneys, who would either accept or reject them for the jury. When I led Mom up, I heard one of the defense attorneys remind the other that Mom's brother was a Sheriff's Deputy. Of course, we were excused.
It took a while, but they finally filled all 12 of the jury seats and one alternate and we were told to go back downstairs to the Jury Assembly Room. I hadn't even gotten Mom back to her chair when they told her that her name had been selected again and that we'd be going right back upstairs.
"Okay! We get to keep moving! I'm too young for all this sitting and sleeping. Heck! If that's all they needed, Zack would have been great for this job!"
Well, we went back to the same courtroom and I led Mom back to the same chair. We listened to the same spiel from the same judge and stood before the very same attorneys who made the same decision to excuse us from duty. Before long, we were back downstairs, waiting.
This time our wait was short, though. In no time, we were told that we could go for the day; but to call back the next day for further instructions for the rest of the week. As we exited the Jury Assembly Room and entered the elevator, a nice man came up to thank Mom for being such a positive inspiration to him. He said that it was refreshing to see someone of her caliber willing to serve, despite her disability. He added that it was even more inspiring when you consider that she could probably have been excused. When he asked why she hadn't tried, Mom just smiled and said, "I love this country and the rights that I enjoy every day. I believe that those rights come with responsibilities and that it is my duty to serve in anyway I can. Just my eyes are broken-not my brain. Besides, if I ever had to stand trial for anything, I'd like to have someone like me on my jury."
"Yep, I would too," he said respectfully.
When we got off the elevator, I didn't wait on anyone but guided Mom right out through the security gate and to the lobby of the Judicial Center. Uncle Bill walked up behind us and offered us a ride home.
Zack and Smokey were waiting on me in my front yard and Mom unleashed me so I could play with them. First, though, I just had to run and run and run!
Later Mom was talking with Aunt Laurel about our day's adventure. Aunt Laurel laughed and reminded Mom that we may have only thought we were there in that courthouse to serve on jury duty but that God may have had us there for another reason. They pray everyday for Him to put them where He needs them and, you know, I think Aunt Laurel may just have been right! I think that, at least for one day, the folks at the Charleston Judicial Center actually experienced "blind justice"!
Tomorrow we're going to celebrate! We've been excused for the rest of the week so we're going shopping!
"Oh, boy! Shopping! I love shopping with Mom! After a while of my working really, really hard, we have a "love-fest" and that makes everyone around us smile."
"Hey, Mom, can we get Smokey a new ball and Zack a new Frisbee? Maybe I could get a new chewy bone, too? I can't find my other ones. I think the other guys have hidden them from me."
"Hey, Mom! Get ready! I'm going to hop up in your lap! I love you, Mom."
Monday, April 25, 2011
It's me, Jesse-Zack's little brother and I'm trying my pawmanship at this writing stuff, just like my big brother!
For those of you who have not yet met me, I'm a handsome yellow boy, too; but a little longer in the legs and thinner in the body than Zack. Aunt Laurel says I'm Mom's basketball player and Zack is her football player!
Oh, I'm every bit as smart as Zack-maybe even a little bit smarter than he is and I really, really love to take my mom places.
Today we began our first day on Jury Duty. Mom got the summons about 3 weeks ago and scheduled our paratransit bus system to come pick us up this morning at 8am. We got up around 6am and by the time Mom took Zack, Smokey and me out to "busy", got herself dressed and ready, fed us all and took us all back out for our morning constitutional, it was time for me to get ready, too.
"Oh, boy! Mom's got the "furminator"! It feels so good when Mom runs that fine-toothed steel comb throughout my fur and remove all the dead stuff! As always, she's reaching for the baby-wipes now! I'm gonna smell gooood!"
Well, the bus got here around 7:45am and, after we let out a lady in Northwoods Mall and picked up 2 others on James Island, we finally arrived at the courthouse. Our driver was really nice and very sorry for not getting us there earlier. Mom just smiled and thanked her as we exited the bus. Like Mom always says, "God puts us where He wants us when He wants us there, regardless of what we may think our schedules are."
When we got off the bus I guided Mom down a long walkway to an iron gate and then made a right turn, just like she directed me. Immediately I began to search for the door and found one of those funny revolving doors. Mom and I were inside the revolving door when Mom felt some resistance and the door began to push us backwards. On the other side of the glass door was an elderly gentleman, frantically telling us that we had to use another door.
"What's up with this, Mom? We were almost in the building when he made us turn around and go back out."
A nice lady met us at the other door and offered to escort us through security. When she grabbed Mom's arm and began pulling on her, Mom just told her to pat her leg and she'd give me the command to follow her.
A bit confused and a whole lot impressed, we were soon at the security gates. As Mom handed over her purse, she told the officers that both she and I would set off the alarm.
"Hey! You all be careful with Mom's bag! That has my cookies in there!"
In no time we were through the security gates and had retrieved Mom's purse when another nice lady offered to take us to room 279 or, The Jury Assembly Room. Obviously not familiar how to be a sighted guide, she grabbed Mom by the arm and began to pull. Once again Mom smiled and told the lady to simply pat her leg and that I would follow her. This lady was really cool about it and kept looking down to watch me work.
We got off the elevator and went down a long hallway to a big room full of people. Everyone had to stand up as their names were called and tell their occupations, ages and the occupations of their spouses. Boring! That took forever; but, I took advantage of the "down time" and grabbed a couple of winks.
Later, a man in a robe came out and had folks line up against the wall. We were included in that group. As we were trying to follow them to where ever we needed to go, another nice lady grabbed Mom by the elbow and insisted we go with her on the elevator.
We caught up with the rest of our group and were herded into a very, very little room where another man in a robe started talking about exemptions. There weren't enough chairs for all of us, so one of the deputies brought one in for Mom to sit in. I immediately took my place underneath her.
We stayed in there for about an hour and, when Mom's name was called as a potential juror, the defense attorneys politely asked for her to be excused. Mom said it was because it was a criminal case and the defense attorneys were afraid that Mom would be more inclined to take the side of the prosecution, since Mom's brother, Uncle Bill, is a law enforcement officer.
When they filled all the juror's seats and that of an alternate, we were excused for lunch. Since we were in the back of the room, we were the first to leave, but the others must have really been in a hurry because they began shoving and pushing Mom out of the way.
A nice lady came over and directed us to another elevator. Mom asked her where their relief area was and the nice lady was stymied. She admitted that she didn't know what a relief area was.
Mom smiled and said that she needed to take me to use the bathroom. The lady's confusion quickly turned into disbelief as she said, "Oh, he has to go outside!"
"Yes, I know," Mom replied. Can you direct me to a grassy area outside?"
"Oh, that would have to be downstairs," the nice lady answered proudly.
I led Mom off the elevator and back down that long ramp, where the security gates were.
"Come on, Mom! I can find the door out!"
Soon we were outside and walking down a long walkway when I spotted a nice patch of grass.
"Boy! Was that ever a long time coming!"
Mom told me that she wasn't hungry, but wanted to give me a little snack and a cool drink of water. Somehow, our bottle of water never made it through security so we had to find another restroom for Mom to get me a cool drink (out of the sink, of course).
Once again we headed through the revolving doors and actually made it inside when a uniformed officer ran over to help us.
"Where do you want to go, ma'am?" the lady asked.
"I need to find a restroom so I can give my little boy a drink, " Mom answered.
Obviously very confused, the lady said, "You mean the dog?"
"Yes ma'am," Mom replied. "Just tell me how to get to the restroom, please."
The lady began to point as she said, "just go right over there."
"I don't see," Mom said, "so if you're pointing you're going to have to point really loud for me to see you!"
"Just go right there by that man in the gray suit!"
"Ma'am, if you can, please put your hands in your pockets and verbally direct me to the restroom.:
Thoroughly confused and disgusted, the lady told Mom that she didn't think she could and we'd have to just follow her. Thankfully, another more understanding lady came over and led us to the restroom, where Mom gave me a much needed and greatly appreciated drink of cool water from the sink in my travel bowl, followed by a nice peanut butter cookie.
As we exited the restroom, another one of those uniformed ladies offered assistance. Mom thanked her and told her that she wanted to go back to room 279 and wait until everyone returned from lunch.
Now, I'm not sure what that lady thought she heard or how she processed Mom's request, but instead of going upstairs on the elevator; we were soon outside again, headed for the snack bar. When Mom questioned our location, a couple of deputy sheriffs came to our rescue and instructed the lady to take us to room 279.
Back through the security gates, on the elevator and down the hall, we finally reached the Jury Assembly Room. We waited there for about 2 hours and were finally dismissed for the day, with instructions to call a special number after 6pm to find out if we needed to return tomorrow.
We were standing out under the portico on Broad Street, waiting for the paratransit bus, when Uncle Bill walked up and offered to take us home.
"Finally! Someone with good sense!"
Mom recanted our day's experience on the way home. Uncle Bill couldn't figure out why the lady took us to the snack bar when we'd asked to go upstairs. Mom told him it was obvious that very few blind folks had ever been called to report for jury duty.
Uncle Bill said he couldn't remember seeing any blind jurors, but that the manager of the snack bar was blind.
"That's it!" Mom shouted. "The lady realized that I am blind and knew the snack bar manager was blind, also. Typical of some sighted folks' intellect regarding the blindness community, she figured she needed to keep us blind folks together."
Uncle Bill wasn't convinced, but Mom was sure that had to be her reasoning.
We finally got back home and I got a much needed nap and a few moments to play. Mom called that special number and found out we have to go back again tomorrow. I can't wait to see what happens then!
I'll keep you guys updated! Until then, stay safe and God bless you all!
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
This spring, God blessed me with two new kids from Indiana. Here I am with nine-year-olds, Christian and Jessica, looking at some really neat tactile representations of the American Flag produced by National Braille Press. We met and spent time together just before my concert at Oak Grove General Baptist Church, Oakland City, IN, Sunday, April 10. Proceeds from this concert helped benefit a special “Road To Orlando Fund,” allowing area blind youth to attend this summer’s National Federation of the Blind Convention. My thanks to teacher Jeanne Lee, and the families of these beautiful kids, for the joy of meeting and staying in touch with them!
Sunday morning found me presenting The Message In Music at Trinity United Methodist Church, also in Oakland City. It was great to meet and share in Worship with Pastor Larry Stoops and his congregation!
My friend, Carolyn who often drives for me, came over to Indiana from Springfield, IL. Here we are by the beautiful stained glass window at Trinity UMC.
Saturday, April 9, after visiting with Mark, Grandpa Ed, and the guys on Princeton Radio Station WRAY Country Gold, Carolyn and I enjoyed an afternoon in New Harmony, IN. We visited the Roofless Church, a must-see if you’re ever in New Harmony, then walked back to the river.
Of course, I had to climb down the rocky bank to a spot where I could dangle my bare feet in the water. Carolyn snapped this picture on my ascent back to level ground. She didn’t worry…much!
During this Southern Indiana weekend, I was blessed to work once again with Rev. Tarrell Thompson, a long-time friend of my ministry and me personally. Here I am with this “adopted dad” of mine after a presentation for the residents of Transcendent Healthcare of Owensville and a visit with Tarrell’s wife, my dear “Mama Lena.”
I spent time sharing music, reading and fun with the students of Home For Your Heart School Evansville, and then Carolyn and I drove over into Illinois.
Palm Sunday was spent in Rantoul, IL with worship and concert ministry at Bethany Park Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. It is always a joy for me to work with Rev. Linda Trowbridge, who now serves as pastor at this church. She took time to pose with me for a picture by the baby grand piano. I am honored to be her "kid sister in Christ"!
My thanks also to Rev. Ken Roedder, another long-time friend and “foster dad” shown here with me at Bethany Park. His generosity, hospitality, help with transportation, fellowship and ongoing support of my ministry mean more than words can express. In appreciation of Ken and his precious wife, Maxine, I was honored to also present a concert for the residents of Tuscola Healthcare Center in the Roedders' home community of Tuscola, IL.
Thank God, and thank you, for your prayers and support which help keep my ministry growing and going!
Stay tuned for more posts like this. Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart!
© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden
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A Little About Me
- Laurel Jean
- God continues to bless me with a busy and fulfilling life. Even after thirty-plus years, my music and ministry keep going and growing. Blind from birth, I am n avid user of Braille and the long, white cane, in addition to a variety of mainstream and access technology. While my blindness does not define me, I consider it to be a unique gift from God. With this gift comes my opportunity to serve as an advocate on behalf of my fellow members of the Blindness community, living and serving among blind and sighted folks of all ages, on all walks of life. To learn more about my music, ministry and outreach, please visit my Web site, and be sure to stay tuned to my Blog!