She Went Blind. Then She Danced.

“We’re alive! As long as we’re alive, we have to keep moving.”

Comments: 85

  1. Thank you for this inspirational, uplifting column Frank. What courage and self confidence Marion demonstrates and imbues in others. What a rare talent that is. She could have chosen to shut herself in her home in despair, but chose instead to make a difference in her own life and the lives of others. She has chosen to not let blindness rob her and others of joy. May she and the others continue to enjoy the freedom of expression that dancing allows them. Thank you Frank for sharing and updating us about your own situation. You are facing it with courage and honesty. I truly admire you for that.

  2. Marion displays what so many of our differently abled people desire. Fun, friendship, laughter, grace, dignity. I loved reading her story. She built trust in people who are vulnerable. Losing one of our senses is terrifying though instead of fear and vulnerability, Marion creates a space for joy. I applaud Marion for daring to create Visions, I applaud Frank for bringing us this story ~ of what humans should aspire to. Thank you NYT for publishing. Thank you Marion for being an incredible example of humanity at it's very best.

  3. Thank you for introducing us to Marion Sheppard. This remarkable individual has a lot to teach others, even beyond dancing. Life just doesn’t come with guarantees and health can change on a dime. When we lose a physical ability, we have to rethink our way of navigating the world. But our attitudes are what we can control. The determination to be resilient and adapt to whatever comes our way is as useful as any innate capability.

  4. It is my pleasure to know Marion and learn from her about persistence and grit. I have been the Executive Director of VISIONS for 32 years. Marion and the thousands of blind people we serve every year are the reason I love coming to work every day. We offer counseling and training for people of all ages with vision loss on how to manage as a visually impaired or blind person free of charge. We assist blind people in finding paid employment. We offer parents of blind children a glimpse into the future and a pathway to an independent life for their child. The greatest barrier that blind people face is the lack of high expectations on the part of the sighted public. Frank Bruni exposed NY times readers to the real world of blindness with his emphasis on the capabilities of blind older persons. Thank you Frank.

  5. @Nancy D Miller Nancy, and the thank you need also go to you for your outstanding career. You and the people you dedicate your life to, as well as the Frank Bruni's of this world and those who heed yours and their words and deeds, are what make America strong and resilient. We so often look toward DC for leadership. And for the last three plus years we have endured the ugliness that can come from those not fit to step foot in the White House or halls of Congress. Yet leadership comes from the everyday American, along with compassion, empathy, and their root, love. Thank you again for making your vocation ours, too.

  6. If the human race survives more than a dozen or so more generations, it will happen because there are enough of them like Marion, those who connect, care, and never give up.

  7. I don’t know the source of optimism. I don’t know if it’s inborn, or if it’s something that we learn. I am blessed with it. I simply don’t know any other way. I know that some of my children don’t have the same spirit. That is the one thing, perhaps the only thing, that sometimes gets me down.

  8. Another happy-tears' column from Frank. Marion's story had me mesmerized. So many thoughts ran through my head. And it was Frank's very last word that struck me..."limitless." Marion is not "disabled." For that matter, we have to ask ourselves: Does a disability make one disabled? It certainly makes life tougher and more challenging with indeed struggles which we can only imagine. But disabled? No, I do not think so. Marion and so many like her manifest the ABILITY, heroism, strength, and resilience in, I would say, most people. Whether it be God or our evolved DNA, we can still go on in life with joy and love, helping others as we help ourselves. I do have one little request of sorts for Frank. The next time he stops by to visit Marion and her students, I expect to see him dancing along with the group. Please take a selfie, Frank, for your readers.

  9. @Kathy Lollock I read somewhere that a disability doesn't make one disabled, but differently abled. It is the perfect description and fits Marion and every other differently abled individual.

  10. @Kathy Lollock I would PAY to see “ Dancing Frank “. Seriously.

  11. Phyliss, me too! I bet he would dance with them...not for a fee but because of the good man he is. 🕺

  12. A happy jolt of inspiration in a time of upheaval, doubt, and the confidence sapping specter of sickness and death lurking, unseen, in our midst. Thank you Mr. Bruni.

  13. Thanks for this story and the opportunity to meet Marion. Wholeness has nothing to do abilities or disabilities, or what happens to us. It comes from the spirit within.

  14. Kudos to Marion. Who said that a disability won't cure others, and project a passive life into stardom? Much worse are those that, with full vision and hearing, refuse to see and hear, enclosed in their own labyrinth of bias if not bigotry, 'a la Trump'.

  15. This is a lovely piece. Just what I needed in the midst of all the coronavirus news. The photography is also fantastic! Maybe I should start dancing while I'm self isolating.

  16. @Hannah Why not? Those of us who are older and have to self-isolate for safety reasons, should not feel bad about that but, instead, like these people, learn how to dance. Even if it's by ourselves!

  17. Thank you Frank and Damon for bringing us the Ms. Sheppard's beauty and indomitable spirit.Thank you, Frank and Damon, for bringing us Ms. Sheppard's beauty and indomitable spirit. I needed this.

  18. Wonderful and inspiring story at a time when we are all in need of those very things. Thank you, Mr. Bruni.

  19. Wow. Every now and then you really, really need a beautiful piece like this to remind what a lovely piece of art this woman is. We're in a world in which we so often cross paths with people who act out of grotesque sense of entitlement. How lovely to hear a story about someone who embodies such a deep sense of appreciation and love for what she has, and what she can generously contribute.

  20. This is who we are. As people, as Americans. At our best and at our average, at least. Thanks.

  21. Having gone to bed with the news that France has now gone into almost complete lockdown like Italy, I really needed to wake up to a life-affirming column like this one. Marion Sheppard may be blind, but her dancing sends out enough sparks to energize all those who come into contact with her and can light up any room. Thank you Frank for reminding me that there are those like Marion Sheppard whose indomitable spirit will never be in lockdown.

  22. "I need your eyes. Can I borrow your eyes?" Those words, from someone who actually sees more and sees better than many of us ever will, inspires others to do the same. As always, Frank, thanks for sharing.

  23. What a tremendous portrait of the most human of challenges, battles and triumphs, the best of humanity. From the stars like Marion and her dancers, to Visions, to Mr. Bruni and the fantastic photography- to the editorial support for reporting on life like this! And finally, to those who have left such wonderful comments. Amazing. We all have our troubles, but the community of goodness surrounding this story verifies my optimism that a better world is not just a possibility - but an everyday happening when we just choose to be open with others and engage. To dance with life itself. I look forward to sharing this piece with my children, but wonder if nyt could do a 5 min video (and podcast) segment of this? These are the stories that our children need to be exposed to. Thank you Frank Bruni.

  24. This is the story we need today. Thank you.

  25. Thank you for Ms. Sheppard’s story. She and all of her students are lessons for us all. I hope they continue to thrive and find joy. They show all of us a way.

  26. Thank you for sharing this story. It really uplifted needs - during a very dark time in my life.

  27. Dear Frank, dear Marion Sheppard, dear NYT, thank you! "Attention is the rarest form of human generosity." Words from French philosopher, Simone Veil, "I will, thereby I am," and "I want, thereby I am." To dance, I live. How fortunate for me to find your column today! Thank you kindly. Simone Weil, 1909-1943.

  28. Thanks for this. I needed an uplift. This brings tears to my eyes.

  29. Frank, it seems your diminished vision in your right eye has expanded your vision of humanity. Thank you for sharing Marion’s story with us, for providing inspiration and belief in people’s abilities and the joy that sharing their riches can bring. It’s certainly what we need right now.

  30. The resilience of human beings is remarkable. Thanks for Marion's story.

  31. Marion is right on time. That says it all. Thank you for this true story of courage and wisdom. I want to hear her playlist.

  32. What an inspiring story! Thank you for this light-filled piece in these dark times of a scary virus and relentless Trumpism.

  33. Thanks. I needed that.

  34. If anyone ever asks you "What is the Meaning of Life," consider answering: "to dance."

  35. @teach Your comment -- which I love and totally agree with -- makes me wonder if you happened to see JoJo Rabbit?

  36. @Gretchen Hi there, and thanks. No, haven't seen it but glad to know the advice is widespread!

  37. I am in awe. Time to think of another word for disabled.

  38. Sfreud yours is such a great insight... Just drop the ”dis”, double entendre intended. Perspective and respect are everything. What an inspiring piece. Marion is electrictrifying and the photography is breathtaking. Thank you, Frank.

  39. Marion & Frank, Perhaps you two could to talk to David Levinthal ([email protected]), who was one of Mark Morris's dancers in Brooklyn. Now he's the director of Dance for Parkinson's Disease which has programs all over the world. David is so kind and talented and he's created a remarkable program. If either of you is interested, I'm almost certain that David and his team would be happy to talk with you. <3

  40. Thank you. How refreshing to hear about a woman like this. It helps me end the day on a more hopeful note after another day of lies and nastiness in the WH.

  41. Yes, you can see Marions in all of the vibrating dance halls in America. They are dancing in heaven with their eyes closed and their legs stomping. And when they open their eyes they know they have just seen something special.

  42. Marion Sheppard has found grace and that grace is more beautiful than sight or hearing. She has agency, exquisite agency, and she has made it her plan to share that agency with others who may think they are at the end of the line and there is nothing they can to about it. What a beautiful woman. I am reminded of the Greek myth where the hero is required to answer a riddle on pain of death: what creature begins on four legs, then moves on two legs, then on three legs? The answer is "man;" the toddler who crawls on all fours, the adult on two feet, the old person uses a cane. There is no "Why me?" in there, it just is. For an extreme example of the indomitable human spirit, check out "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," available on Amazon. It is a true story: a writer has an accident that leaves him unable to move or speak. All the thoughts are there but he cannot get them out; sentences swirl in his head unattended. Then his health aide figures out a way. The writer has control of a single eyelid, and the aide repetitiously goes through the alphabet until the writer blinks, and she writes that letter down. They get better at it over time. Eventually, they created a memoir of surpassing beauty about memory, loss and creation. Because it is our failures and misfortune that define us, yet it is our choice as to whether they define us down or up. Dear Marion Sheppard: I promise you I will dance today. And tomorrow.

  43. @Brian Prioleau I read the Diving Bell and the Butterfly years ago and try to re-read it every decade or so. It's a marvelous book, heroic, overwhelmingly beautiful, and full of wisdom.

  44. Did you know that the Greek Orthodox church in the U.S. has a dance ministry? Most line dancing but some couple free form (not touching) and no not all fancy stuff like "Zorba". It is a life benefit for its social advantages. For the church it keeps the kids involved. Bruni should join the large national and NY community where he would be most welcome. And no, I am not Greek Orthodox tho often welcomed plus great ideas should be spread.

  45. As the mother of a 24-year old totally blind since birth daughter - I love reading positive stories about “blind peeps” as we call them. As I’ve always known is true - it’s not the disability that’s your biggest obstacle - it’s others’ perceptions about what you can and can’t do. Go Marion!!

  46. " Trouble with you is the trouble with me, Got two good eyes but you still don't see." Grateful Dead, "Casey Jones" If we could choose our life lessons, we would learn little. Most of us are able to Look, but few of us actually See. Marion might be blind, but she has learned to SEE! OM!

  47. Thank you for this wonderful story of courage and compassion! I am inspired.

  48. Thank you Frank Bruni for giving us this inspiring and uplifting story during this very challenging moment. Like Marion, you bring light to the darkness that surrounds us. Thank you for what you do.

  49. Thank you, Frank Bruni, for this uplifting and inspiring window into the lives of fearless and fun fellow Americans who have much to teach the rest of us about resilience and perseverance. Your columns are always the best way to begin any day. The smiling photos of these individuals was a tonic for my soul this Sunday morning.

  50. Thanks for this. And thanks for the photos! in this period when we're all isolated, your article offers a lift. Maybe I'll put on my Aretha records and dance!

  51. @Betsy Blosser R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Cheers.

  52. Frank, You should have joined them and written about. Journalistic distance be damned!

  53. Thank you, thank you.

  54. This is the story we need today!!!!!

  55. Beyond inspiring Frank Bruni. Thank you for sharing this story of hope and resilience.

  56. ". . . in accordance with an unspoken covenant." Indeed. A great story to point the way away from our torn present predicament. More caring and bravery. And dancing!

  57. Beautiful piece of writing and photography. As others have written, thank you to Frank Bruni and Damon Winter and Marion Sheppard!

  58. Thanks Frank, and tell those beautiful (and handsome) dancers they're an inspiration.

  59. The story I was looking for today. Now, I can go about my life. Thank you, Frank, Damon -- and most of all Marion and her students.

  60. These people lift me from afar.

  61. We can all learn so much from Marion!

  62. May we all keep dancing - with ourselves - and - together with all peoples.

  63. There really are a lot of good people in the world, aren't there? In these times it is so easy to doubt the idea of goodness and putting others first.

  64. Needed to read this on my pity pot from a a cold!

  65. What an uplifting story, thanks. Attitude is critical.

  66. Glorious. And the photographs are a thing in themselves!

  67. What a lovely, uplifting article. Mr. Bruni, please tell Ms. Ceclia Lawson that her picture makes my heart sing -- her joyful inner child (about age 6?) is just shining through as she dances!

  68. When you inhabit a body that has one or more areas that are failing from hereditary diseases, you can let it eat your soul away or except it and adapt. My eyes work but I can't dance anymore so I dance in my head. All the rivers I fished with my fly rod are now confined to mental exercises. The long walk in to get to that section that only the fleet of foot could get to. How to present myself to this pool and that pool. Where were the best tail outs. The short walks I can still go on cause me to savor every independent step I take. When that's gone, I'll be walking in my mind.

  69. Oh man! Great story. Great lady! I gotta learn to dance! Like mom and grandma before me, my one eye with correctable sight is fading. But wheelchair bound friends would envy my opportunity to dance, so I better start having fun with that! Nobody gets everything. Thanks for wonderful inspiration. Hey, apartment dwellers! We could stand on balconies and dance together to “YMCA” or something once a day during our social distancing. It would do us some good.

  70. @AO I saw on TV yesterday that in Italy, where they have major "social distancing" now, people are all going out on their balconies and yelling hello's to each other and singing Italian songs. They were all laughing and having fun looking out at each other.

  71. Great story of determination, love of life and being able to not only pull oneself away from the "darkness" but also to inspire others to do the same. Marion is a role model for everyone.

  72. Mr. Bruni, as you know, I rarely agree with you on many of the contentious issues of the day. Today, you hit a home run with this essay. Please recognize that no one should be going through what you've been going through regarding your eyesight. It is important that you've been transparent with your readers and even more important when you bring to our attention inspiring people like Marion. Keep up the good work!

  73. We teach swing dancing and have had persons with vision and hearing loss do quite well. Jean Veloz, one of the most famous dancers in the swing dance community has lost her much of her vision due to macular degeneration, yet still amazes at 96 years old. An inspiration to folks of any generation.

  74. "Cross a drill sergeant with a life coach, add a vocabulary heavy on the sorts of endearments stamped on heart-shaped candies and you get Marion." What a lovely piece, Frank Bruni! Your always on-point descriptions seemed to me even better than usual in your descriptions (well illustrated by the photos) of the vision-impaired dancers. You mention why you were at Visions to meet and witness Marion's work, but you leave out your current status other than to say your one eye is irreversible. From how you frame this, I suspect you got even more from writing about this than I did--given your identification. The ability to use an affliction to help others is simply wonderful, and I imagine somewhat rare. But in your writing, you're doing that every week, in just about even area of your life where you've struggled. Thank you, again. And thank you Marion, for increasing joy at Visions.

  75. @ChristineMcM We should nominate that sentence for Frank's newsletter feature of the best writing!

  76. Frank, I’m completely ashamed of myself. I was awash in self pity, lounging about on my soft sofa in my warm house, worried about my elderly Parents in Florida. Then you had to spoil my mood. Have you thought about offering Therapy? Marion Sheppard is a lodestar. An inspiration to Her friends, and those she helps. It used to be called “ gumption “. Often it’s called a role model. But I’m absolutely sure SHE doesn’t think of herself that way. She’s living Her life, making friends and enjoying the Dance. She’s absolutely beautiful, and not just physically. Her dancing with others moves body AND soul. Thank you, and please take care of yourself.

  77. @Phyliss Dalmatian "Then you had to spoil my mood." Love it!

  78. @Phyliss Dalmatian So well said, Phyllis!

  79. Totally awesome. Dance. It is a uniquely human experience. I met my wife at a dance. Saw her dancing, and fell in love with her on the spot. Took dance lessons I knew she was taking so she could get to know me.....slowly.....and at a pace she was comfortable. After a few months invited her to dance. A week later we decided to marry. We still dance.....all over the United States. Almost all of the time out in the desert or the prairie. Just the two of us. Dance. Dance. Dance.

  80. @Travelers - Beautiful love story!

  81. I work for the largest NGO funder of research to cure blindness caused by inherited retinal diseases like RP that Frank, Marion and the rest of the dance class have. Thanks for putting names to faces to remind me why I show up, roll up my sleeves and do my job each day!

  82. As some one who has a similar sight loss as Frank Bruni and who was an artist and the photojournalist, my crative talents turned to what was still available to me. What was, is no impediment to what can be in the present. An artist is not their past work but what they can produce in the present moment. Creativity can be like 'a bird in the sky that leaves no tracks'.

  83. Thank you for the piece. Beauty shines from within with Ms. Sheppard My own daughter has been severely-profoundly deaf since having meningitis as a baby. She is super bright, has a PhD., teaches sign language, and has her own business. She is persistent. Despite being discriminated against by both hearing and deaf people for much of her life, she has many friends and a strong positive outlook on life. It isn't easy, but an easy life isn't promised to any of us. I hope that we can have a president who doesn't make jokes about people who are deaf/have disabilities to set an example from the top. Don't give pity, don't disparage. Accept that we are all human beings. This is the lesson I've learned over time.

  84. I needed that uplifting story! We all have crosses to bear. My heart started to give out in my 40s. I don’t smoke, I’m not obese. Go figure. Four heart surgeries later, and I’m still here! For good measure, I had double cataract surgery last month. I have adult children who still need me, two dogs, and a mother who is fading into oblivion in her 90s. There are days I’d like to hide under the blankets. But there’s so much to do. Keep moving, indeed!

  85. @David G Go go go!!! You can do it!!