- Disabilities & the Disabled
The World Beyond the Mountain Peaks: How a Young Boy Named Jack Has Overcome Blindness to Discover His Great Talents
No matter where you live, the world around us changes and as we grow older we come to embrace these changes. We see the world in its true beauty as our power of observation grows stronger as we age and mature. It’s what I’ve noticed about myself over the years, so I am ever grateful with every chance I get to witness something new.
However, there are those who are not so lucky and don’t see the world at all. It isn’t necessarily because they don’t want to, but rather because they simply can’t. They have learned how to get around in the world without sight, but that’s just getting by. We think people who are born in blindness are lost without the ability to see the world in its beauty and we feel incredibly sorry for them.
For a young man like Jack Falejczyk, that is not an issue. From playing music to being a sports competitor, he has shown the world that nothing can hold him back.
In an article published by the San Francisco Chronicle on August 1, 2012, Jack spoke about the condition that ailed his sight since he was 3 months old.
"My personal mission statement is to not let my blindness hold me back," Jack said. "If you try something, it takes time, but it comes."
His parents showed some concern about Jack’s vision when they noticed that he showed little “vision curiosity” in comparison to his sister, Erin. They also noticed that he often rolled his eyes. When Jack turned 6 months old, he was taken by his parents to have his vision tested by a specialist. The tests confirmed that Jack suffered from Leber's congenital amaurosis, a rare genetic disorder that affects the retina and does result in total blindness. When it was clear the condition would offer no chance for a cure, Jack spent whatever time he could to adapt to his lifestyle while living the way he wanted to live.
And to this day, he has been able to do just that.
One of his most remarkable achievements is being a competitive swimmer on one of the teams for the Hickory Willow Swim Association. He is also noted in the article for getting straight A’s, typically working with a resource aid to get through his courses. Still, he goes about his business at his school like everyone else. Jack is also a rock climber and earned fourth place in the National Braille Challenge four years ago. He dreams one day of being an audio programmer.
Perhaps what’s most noteworthy Jack is his musical talent. According to the article, Jack’s parents noticed that he was able to pick up and learn music easily just by listening to it. He was able to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a toy keyboard when he was just a toddler. As Jack got older, he started taking piano lessons from a park district music camp instructor. However, rather than using Braille to read music, he listens to the music in parts, playing some of the music on the piano with one hand and then playing other parts with the other hand. Eventually, he assembles the pieces together by playing the music with both hands.
Jack was given an interview by the Daily Herald explaining his methods for piano playing and how he works around his condition to improve his abilities:
Daily Herald Interview
While Jack’s condition does not offer hope for a cure, he is not willing to give up the fight to find one eventually. He currently serves as the youth chairman for VisionWalk, a non-profit organization that focuses on fighting blindness. According the Chronicle’s article, the walk saw one of its most incredible successes last month, drawing 1,200 walkers to Busse Woods and raising profits of $320,000. The proceeds go towards the Foundation for Fighting Blindness. More information about VisionWalk can be found at the link for Jack’s team here:
The Foundation has raised a record $400 million towards research curing the Leper’s condition. One of its most recent successes in its research can be seen in the video below:
Foundation Fighting Blindness Video
Jack is working hard to promote this organization with the hopes that enough funding will be raised to cure his ailment. However, until that day comes, he continues to live his life and enjoying the things in life he loves the most, especially his music.
"I really enjoy it," Jack said regarding his piano playing. "Maybe I'll get a drum set next."
It’s really hard for me not to tear up when I read these stories about the progress these organizations have made towards finding a cure. Things we take for granted from seeing a sunset to looking at the expressions of people’s faces…these are wonders people like Jack have never seen. We’ve had time to grow older and take in the images over the years, yet the details that we capture with our eyes stirs so many emotions in our minds. It’s those rush of emotions that make us feel so alive. Now we have a chance to allow people who have been robbed of their sight to have that same enjoyment.
However, the truth is that this kind of therapy is still a good ways away from being common place. So where does that leave people who are still waiting to see that light?
We often find ourselves in challenging situations that we don't know how to overcome because we have never dealt with them before. Either that or we don’t think we have the capacity to handle the task at hand. Someone like Jack does not believe that blindness is a reason to give up on anything. In fact, he uses that as motivation to do what he wants!
The fact is that Jack does want to see again, but that’s no reason for him to stop being happy. Jack knows this and at 12 years old he has achieved so much more than what I have been able to do at 32. Jack is a strong athletic, a solid academic, and an aspiring musician. He doesn’t need his eyes to make this happen…he just simply does it. He does it because he loves these things because he enjoys them. He does it to keep up the hopes and dreams that he will become the kind of person we all hope to be one day: successful and happy. He has made goals and he accomplishes them day by day. Granted he has to make adjustments here and there in order accomplish what he wants. However, it’s one thing to make adjustments that may take you more time and diligence to achieve something. That's better than simply saying there is no way to do what you want because something about your body doesn’t work right or is missing a vital part.
When we stop ourselves from living a dream, it is mainly because of self-doubt rather than because of a physical limitation. We fear we can’t run well in a race because our legs are just not fast enough. Tell that to Oscar Pritorius, who has no legs and yet became the first amputee sprinter in Olympic history to compete in the games when he ran the 400 meter race.
People like Jack are living proof that we have a way to be what we want. The world won’t stop offering what it has to offer him just because he can’t see.
Even without sight, Jack still climbs over mountain peaks to find the hidden world he's always wanted…and so can we.