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Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2001 / 15 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Consumer Reports

To bring light where
there is only darkness


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- IT'S not yet possible to put an exact number on it -- the number of victims of the terrorist attacks on the United States.

There are the people who died in the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, and on board the passenger jets.

There are the people infected by the anthrax spores sent through the U.S. mail.

There are the people out of work because of the damage to the

U.S. economy the terrorists have caused. Victims all.

But it extends beyond that -- to people and places most of us seldom think about.

One of the most inspiring examples of true American greatness -- of true American heart -- that I am aware of is a program sponsored by Lions Clubs International.

The Lions Clubs travel to some of the most impoverished nations in the world and find people, including many children, who have never been able to see clearly. These poor souls have never visited an eye doctor, and would never be able to afford a pair of glasses even if they had.

They go through their entire lives not being able to see the world in front of them. They assume such a thing is not possible.

But the Lions Clubs -- with the help of the American people -- come to their rescue. The Lions Clubs collect eyeglasses from Americans who no longer need them -- Americans whose lens prescriptions have changed, or whose frames are outmoded. The Lions Clubs collect the glasses, sort them by prescription strength, and then, with volunteer eye doctors, take those glasses around the world to places where the citizens would never have the opportunity to have their eyes examined.

It is amazing. People walk for 50 miles so their children can be seen by a doctor sent by the Lions Clubs; people stand in line all day, people sleep in the streets, people cry in gratitude because these American doctors, bringing glasses donated by American citizens, have come to help them. It is completely free to them -- a gift. Dr. James Sementilli, a Chicago optometrist who has gone on Lions Clubs missions of mercy to Mexico, Kenya, Peru, Bolivia, Tunisia, Chile and Malaysia, told me about one woman -- the mother of 12 children -- he had treated in Mexico.

"At first we thought she was blind," Dr. Sementilli said. "Her vision was that poor. She told us through a translator that she was a hog farmer, and that she had never seen her children's faces. She knew her 12 children only through their voices.

"We were able to help her, and to give her eyeglasses that enabled her to see. She ran for the door as soon as she had the glasses on -- she didn't even want to wait for us to fit them.

"She was running -- she said she wanted to go home, because she couldn't wait to see her children for the first time."

Why am I telling you this today?

Because two of the Lions Clubs' trips -- to Mexico and Central America -- were canceled after Sept. 11. Americans have become targets. The terrorists say that Americans represent all that is bad on this Earth. The terrorists disrupted our entire way of life -- and the American eye doctors, with eyeglasses donated by American citizens, were unable to make the trips.

So the people who were going to be able to see -- the people who waited for the American eye doctors -- still wait. More victims of the terrorists.

The Lions Clubs, and the volunteer doctors, vow those people are going to get their eye examinations, and their glasses. Dane LaJoye, Lions Clubs spokesman, told me the missions are back on track -- they will go forward, even in this dangerous world of ours.

You can help. If you have eyeglasses you no longer need, you can call the Lions Clubs at 1-800-747-4448 for instructions on where to send the glasses, and how to package them. Or you can call any local Lions Club -- or go to the organization's Web site (www.lionsclubs.org) for information.

You can also take your glasses to any LensCrafters store in the U.S.; they will get the glasses to the Lions Clubs, and the clubs will get the glasses to the people who need them.

These are the people who pray for the chance to be able to see. They are people the terrorists would keep the American doctors of mercy away from -- because our enemies don't want the world to know what kind of people we really are.



JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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