During the course of our lives, most of us have encountered a few individuals who have had a significant and important impact on our lives. It might have been a parent, a close friend, a teacher, a pastor, or even a stranger – but their presence and intervention helped make a critical decision.
Most of the daily choices we make are of little importance in the grand scheme of our lives. In some circumstances, however, one is virtually standing at a fork in life’s road, having to choose one path or the other – a truly “life changing” event with enormous implications.
Beth Butler’s parents had to make just such a decision on her behalf when she was a very young child. I recently heard Beth tell her inspirational story at the Christian Ophthalmology Breakfast Meeting and, speaking of making decisions, immediately decided that Freedom Forum Radio listeners would be as captivated as I was to hear her tale and the implications it could have for each of us in our own lives.
Beth’s story involves her eyesight. The decision that changed her life was made by her parents after a consultation when she was only five years old with Dr. J. Lawton Smith, a professor of neuro-ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.
Beth was the youngest of three girls. As a toddler, her parents noticed that she was having trouble seeing. A local ophthalmologist examined Beth and gave her parents a truly devastating diagnosis. He told them that Beth was legally blind, her condition would get progressively worse, and eventually she would become completely blind.
After hearing that their daughter would be visually disabled, Beth’s parents stood in the middle of that hypothetical fork in the road, frightened and wondering what to do. They knew that one of the paths would lead to Beth’s life as a visually disabled adult who would, likely, not be capable of caring for herself.
Not satisfied with that grim prognosis and praying for a better future for their daughter, Beth’s parents traveled to Miami, Florida, for a consultation with neuro-ophthalmologist Dr. J. Lawton Smith.
After praying with the family, as was his custom, Dr. Smith examined Beth. He determined that she had been born with hypoplasia of the optic nerve. Children with this condition generally have 20/200 visual acuity without central vision but generally have a peripheral visual field that is adequate to function. The best news for Beth was that the condition is not progressive.
Still dismayed, Beth’s parents asked Dr Smith what they should do. Dr. Smith looked directly at Beth’s mother and father and said, “Take your child home and treat her as if she is no different than your other two children.”
Suddenly one of the hypothetical forked paths in Beth’s parents minds seemed significantly brighter than the other. Both could now clearly see which path to take. It was the very same one that their other two daughters were already on and the one that would also lead to happiness, adventure, opportunity, and success for a very capable Beth. Without hesitation, Beth’s parents took her by the hand and started to walk.
Beth grew up going to regular school, riding a bicycle, and playing sports just like her sisters and classmates. She went on to college and graduated from Law School.
Today, Beth is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Business Leadership Network, an affiliate of the US Business Leadership Network, whose mission is to advance disability inclusion in the workplace.
Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida, is where I trained many years ago, and, in fact, Dr. J. Lawton Smith was my professor of neuro-ophthalmology. Dr Smith was a most unique and unforgettable man of faith and character and one of my greatest teachers.
Dr. Dan’s guest on Freedom Forum Radio this weekend is Beth Butler, Executive Director of the North Carolina Business Leadership Network. Beth will share her inspirational journey from childhood and the loss of her eyesight to the accomplished, successful, and remarkable young woman she is today. Listeners will be captivated by Beth’s story and the implications it could have for each of us and the decisions we make in our own lives.
Part one of this three-part interview begins this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, January 27-28, on WJRB 95.1 FM and streamed live over the Internet. Part two airs Saturday and Sunday, February 3-4, and part three airs Saturday and Sunday, February 10-11. All programs are available by podcast following air time here.