Blind, Wheelchair-Bound Student Doesn't Fail to Inspire

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Patrick's father grins and nods. He concedes that navigating a wheelchair across the thick grass of a football field, in formation, sometimes at top speed, offers many exciting challenges for a man old enough to be the father of a college student. Fortunately, fellow band members are eager and willing to point him in the right direction.

"The biggest problem is sometimes when I'm backing up with Patrick, I can't stop quick enough." he said. "I'll have a horn player behind me, and they've gotten smart enough now that, rather than running into their horn, they put their hand up."

Blindness as a Gift and a Blessing

Some parents might see some bigger problems in all of this. For example, Patrick's father works an overnight shift at a shipping company and gets four or five hours of sleep so he can attend Patrick's classes and band practices with him all day.

Patrick's mother, Patricia Hughes, works full-time to supplement their income. She also takes care of the household, Patrick's medical needs, and siblings, and handles the concerns of every parent of a disabled child who looks down the road and wonders how it could possibly work out.

That's just not how the Hughes family looks at things. Patrick taught them to see it all differently, his father says.

"Back then he was born it was, 'Why us? What did we do that this happened to us?'" he said. "And we ask the same question nowadays, but we put it in a whole new light. You know, 'What did we do to deserve such a special young man, who's brought us so, so much."

Patrick John Hughes' gaze drifted again to his son, and both their faces lit up with smiles.

"He sees the world in a way that we can't even imagine," the father said.

Just listen to young Patrick and you know what his father means.

"I've always felt that my talent has really been a gift from God," he said.

Patrick includes his blindness, by the way, in the list of gifts.

"That's one of the great benefits I've found of being blind. I don't see the skin color, I don't see the hair length, I don't see the eye shape, I just see what's inside the person," he said.

Actually, Patrick said, blindness more than a gift to him.

"I would have to say a blessing, because overall, it's shown me a complete world."

That's how young Patrick Henry Hughes sees the world.

"He has so much more to teach me," his father said. "And I think to myself: I see just what you mean. He's taught me so much already.

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