My younger sister is profoundly deaf and uses Cochlear Implants to hear. I also have other family members and close friends with hearing loss and other disabilities so stories about children learning to overcome their limitations and develop special skills to get through their everyday lives have always held a very special place in my heart.
Follow My Leader is one of those stories. It tells of the hardships faced by Jimmy Carter after he goes blind in a freak accident. He must learn to navigate around his house and neighborhood, learn to read in braille, and find new ways to do simple tasks like getting dressed in the morning all without the use of his eyes. All the things that he did before with ease and without thought now take him time and concentration. Some of his journey is very similar to the journey I have watched my sister make. Over and over again while reading the book I found myself thinking back to times when my sister experienced the same things. Especially when it comes to interactions with other people.
My sister has often had a hard time with acceptance among her peers. They see her as being different. For little girls being different or seeing someone else who is different can be a scary thing. I’ve seen time and time again little kids feeling akward around my sister and not knowing how to act. It often takes time for them to accept her for the beautiful little girl she is inside and out. Jimmy Carter experienced much of the same thing. Even his best friends weren’t sure how to behave while near him. It took time for them to realize he was the same person he was before the accident. They eventually accepted who he was and didn’t let it come between them. Just as I have seen my sister’s friends do many times before.
Something my sister never experienced but Jimmy did was the help of a guide-dog. Of course, there are no dogs that will help a deaf person hear, but Jimmy got one to be his eyes for him. At first it’s understandably difficult for Jimmy to adjust to following a dog around and trusting it to keep him safe. After a while however, Jimmy gets used to it and forms a special relationship with the dog, whom he calls Leader. Leader loves Jimmy and Jimmy loves Leader. They take care of each other and only leave the other ones side when absolutely necessary. The bond between the two of them is a very special thing that deserves to be cherished.
Perhaps the most important part of the book for me was something I, and nearly everyone else in the world, can relate to on a very personal level. Jimmy must not only learn to live with being blind, but he has to leanr to forgive the person who was the cause of the tragedy. Everyone on earth knows how difficult of a thing it can be to forgive someone who has done a terrible thing to you, even if by accident. The way in which Jimmy handled the situation provides a perfect example to children of all ages.
I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone who needs to forgive someone, or is interested learning about the journey someone with a disability such as blindness has to make. It is a truly inspirational book. I story will always be very dear to me as I hope it will be to anyone with the privilege of reading such a fantastic book.