Personal story stirs the heart
Once in a while a book comes along that has no great literary pretensions, but all the same manages to stir the heart and lift the spirit. Lucy Ching's One of the Lucky Onesm (published by Doubleday, but, for $17.75, not very handsomely printed) does just that.
When Lucy was five years old, she asked her mother why she couldn't keep up with her brothers and sisters. That was when she learned she was blind.
That was the bad news. The worse news came slowly. Gradually it dawned on her that in China in the 1930s it was a disgrace to be blind - and for a girl to be blind usually meant a life on the street as a beggar and a prostitute. Not that she had to worry about that. Her parents were comforting on that point. But they did think of her as inferior. They would never take her out of the apartment. Worse, they never intended to send her to school, and her hunger for learning would never be satisfied.
''One of the Lucky Ones'' tells how Lucy broke through barrier after barrier, with all the gentle persistence of a blade of grass cracking through concrete pavement. She tells of three moments ''when I suddenly knew not only that I could go on coping with my problems, but why.''
Moment No. 1 came when she was eight and heard on the radio that there was a way blind children in England and the US could learn to read. Her First Big Brother was a ham-radio operator, and for three weeks he sent out signals in three languages, asking if anyone knew how children could read with their fingers. Finally the call was answered; a package of Braille material arrived, and Lucy, after many experiments, began to teach herself, helped by her brothers and sisters.
The second turning point came one day when her brother and sister were doing lessons from the Bible. They recited the passage that includes the words ''God so loved the world. . . .'' Lucy wanted to know if those words really meant what they said. ''Who was this loving God? Would he love a blind girl?'' Her sister decided that, yes, He would. ''God loved me too because . . . I was one of the people in the world so I must be included.'' Those words gave her courage to overcome the objections of her parents, who were Buddhists, find her way to a Baptist church, and become a Christian.
The third turning point was a sad one. A blind beggar girl whom Lucy had befriended disappeared. Lucy remembered that her friend had made her promise to try to teach ''all us blind people to read with our hands, and then we needn't be slaves in the street. . . .'' So Lucy made ''a solemn promise to Him that I would give my life to helping and teaching blind people if He would help me to learn enough to do it. I felt myself filled with a great determination to learn, and in one of those strange moments of inner certainty I knew that with God's help I would succeed.''
She did succeed. A revolution couldn't stop her. Neither could poverty. She finally came to America, to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, and now she is a social worker in Hong Kong who assists the blind and other handicapped persons. Through all her struggles, she was helped by Ah Wor, her amah, a woman who emerges from the pages as steadfast and courageous as Lucy herself. In fact it would be easy to doubt parts of this story if the reader did not gather from between the lines an undeniable picture of two women totally loving and unyieldingly honest.