Back in the fall of 2012 I was 100% blind having had surgeries and laser treatments done in both eyes and I wondered where I was going to go with the hobby. My wife would autoplay playlists of videos for me on Youtube to listen to and she would read news articles to me. While I appreciated this glimpse into what was going on with the industry nothing could replace having a transmitter in my hands. Over the winter my right eye steadily improved to a point that I didn’t have to hold on to others and be guided like some overgrown puppy. I was still not self-sufficient by any stretch of the imagination but I was determined to do more with the sight I did have. In the spring of 2013 my corrected vision was 20/200 in my right eye while I was still blind in the left.
I had become proficient at driving my SCX10 around the yard. The thought was that it was slow so it owuld be easy to track, it was (and coincidentally still is) orange which my eye could see against the green of the grass and there wasn’t anything in the yard for me to trip over. I drove pack after pack like this, getting more coordinated and more able to track moving objects every time I went out. It was nice to be driving again; to feel like I was a part of the hobby again.
While I was enjoying driving around the yard, I felt like it was time to get back into the shop and do some maintenance on my rigs. What I didn’t take into account was how limited I was at the time in seeing contrast, focusing on small objects and adapting to low light conditions. It was extremely frustrating for a while. Doing something as simple as checking every screw on the truck for tightness was an eight hour job. This was a hurdle that I wasn’t sure I could overcome at the time. Insted of giving up I had my wife log into my account on a few forums that I belonged to at the time. She asked others what they thought would be some tips that could help me get back into wrenching for myself. The response was heart warming, ranging from links to organizations that might be able to help to tips for making things easier to see. We bought a set of hex drivers with different color handles that made it easier to differentiate between the sizes and even marked the sizes on the shank with a piece of tape and a Sharpie. This helped me identify what I was reaching for and got me interested in working on things again. My issue at that point was keeping things organized while I worked and that is where a few people reached out to me with a suggestion.
An individual said that he wanted to send me a CowRC pit mat to help with my recovery. His thought was that the compartments would help me keep everything separated and easier to find. The mat showed up about a week later and it was a game changer. It is about the size of a short course truck and now lives on my desk in my office. Without that mat I don’t know that I would have been so motivated to keep pushing myself to try to work on things.
A short time later another individual (who I won’t name out of respect for their privacy) had caught word of my situation and reached out to me to offer some help. He sent me a CowRC mat that I use in my workshop and is extra large with two separate screw catchers. They didn’t have to do this, I hadn’t asked them to do anything like this but they just wanted to help out someone in need. I don’t want this to sound like an advertisement for CowRC but their products simply work and those folks thought they would help me out, and they did. I have used that mat every day for the last five years and it has some battle scars but it has saved my bacon more times than I can count. When I drop a screw it is not just as simple as bending down to pick it up. I have to get on all fours and feel my way around as I can’t reallly see detail in low light, such as under my bench, and finding a screw for me can be an hour long process. That Cow mat had paint spilled on it, solder stuck to it, fingers glued to it, knife blades stuck through it, you name it its seen it and came back for more.
Now, six years out from eye surgery, still blind in one eye and now seeing very well out of the other, I consider myself extremely luck to be in the position that I’m in. I get the chance to help others in the industry every day, to write about the hobby I love, and to play with toy trucks all day long. What those folks that helped me early on instilled in me was a sense of duty. A duty to make the most of the opportunities that I am given. The responsibility to help anyone who needs it. A chance to pay it forward. I am extremely luck to work with some of the biggest and best companies in the RC industry and I am extremely lucky to do so. Anytime I get a message on social media or on a forum from someone who has a question I remember that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of some very important people at a crucial time in my life. If I can change someones life in the same way that mine has been affected then I feel like I’m doing my job. You never know how something so simple may change the course of someones life. Who knows, if it weren’t for those Cow mats I could be sitting in a recliner feeling sorry for myself, living on a diet of potato chips and self loathing. Instead I have the chance every day to help others enjoy the hobby that I love. That is a dream job in my book.
Something that those people taught me that I’m not sure if they even know is that the simplest actions can have the most profound effects. We need to come together as a community and help each other in any way we can. See someone at the track struggling with their car? Offer some help with setup or loan them a tool to help them work on their car. Create local groups to go out and bash with or get a trail run organized. If you’re out running and a kid comes up with questions, take the time to answer them. You never know their situation; how a simple act of kindness may change their day.
To those who have helped me along the way, I thank you. Your kindness and willingness to take a chance on me mean more to me than you will ever know. It may sound cheesy but you did saved me from a life of couch sitting and depression. My RC collection thanks you as they weren’t relegated to a Craigslist ad or worse, a life of collecting dust and non-use. My wife thanks you as now I’m not in her hair 24 hours a day. My eye surgeon thanks you as RC has been my form of vision therapy and we believe that I wouldn’t have the vision I have today without it. As someone much smarter than I once said, “you either get busy living or you get busy dying.” I chose to take the opportunities afforded to me and make the best of them, to help others, and to do everything I can to make this hobby the best it can be.
Please leave a comment below if anyone has ever gone out of their way to help you or has done something that, while innocent enough to them, changed your life. I’d love to hear your stories.