“Utah School for the Blind”—I turned my car into the school’s driveway and glanced at my watch. I had had trouble finding the address, and I was late for an appointment at 12:00 to meet with Scott Jeppson from American Fork, Utah. He had recently been awarded the Eagle badge, an outstanding achievement and an especially remarkable one for him. Scott was born with an eye disease called glaucoma, and by the time he was twelve, due to the glaucoma and a list of other medical complications, he was totally blind.
Scott was waiting at the edge of the parking lot when I drove in. The first thing I noticed about him was his smile. He had the biggest, brightest smile I’d ever seen. After shaking hands with him and introducing myself, I apologized for being late.
“I got lost,” I explained.
“Well, that’s okay,” he said. “That happens to me a lot, too. If we hurry we might still be able to get some lunch.”
Scott led me across the campus as fast as I could walk. I didn’t understand how he could go so quickly when he couldn’t see until I realized that he had every square foot of the place memorized. After lunch we followed Scott’s regular schedule: reading class, swimming, and history. Scott reads using the Braille system and by using a machine called an opticon. The opticon converts regular printed material into vibrations in the shape of letters that are read with a single finger.
After the classes were over, I got a chance to talk casually with Scott as we sat on the grass in the sun. There was a group of students playing softball below us. The game was the same as regular softball except the ball had an electronic beeper in it.
I asked about the problems he’d had adjusting to his handicap.
“It took a lot of adjustment,” he said. “I just do the things I need to do first—pray, study the scriptures, and attend church. I’ve also been blessed with a good family and friends. I can work out most of the problems, and if I can’t work them out, I can get a lot of help.
“I also believe that I’m the only person who can make me happy. I work out the problems, just like anyone else, and I try to smile through discouragement.”
Scott holds the office of a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. He helps prepare and bless the sacrament. He gives talks, using notes in braille, and goes home teaching. In Scouting, since he has earned his Eagle, he is now working toward Scouting’s next higher awards, the Palms.
Last summer Scott and 17 other members of his stake went on a three-day handcart trek. The first day they pushed their carts 26 miles. The second day turkeys were turned loose. The members of the companies were blindfolded and told to catch them. Scott caught the turkey for his group.
On the last day of his trip each one went out by himself.
“That gave me a chance to think,” Scott said. “I had a lot to think about—about reaching goals, about what kind of member of the Church I was. I needed to take everything further. I needed to take what I was further. I realized the only thing stopping me was myself.”
It was over a year ago when first met Scott. He’s 17 now. Scott has changed in a year. He’s grown. His goals for the future include a temple marriage, missionary work, college, and a career in teaching. “I’ll find a way to reach my goals,” he said, smiling. “After all, you’re the only person who can make you happy.”
Scott’s smile? It has changed too. It’s even bigger.