The 100 or so active members of the Diablo Woodworkers Club are amateurs in name only. They know their way around a drill press and a lathe, routinely crafting chests, tables, desks, cabinets and chairs. But at their monthly meeting in Pleasant Hill last week, they sat quietly captivated as 75-year-old Gil Johnson stood before them and explained how he made many of the same things.
Johnson, born with impaired vision, has been blind since he was 14.With trained hands you can do just about anything. Without trained hands, you can watch. Is school to be about learning to do and lead to an active life? Or is it merely to train observers to stand at the sidelines of life?
The Diablo Woodworkers Club has taken an active role in promoting hands-on learning for Bay area youth. My good friend Bob Barnett, a longtime Diablo woodworker and my primary connection to the club also serves on the board of the Hatlen Center for the Blind. He was no doubt instrumental in bringing Johnson to the attention of the club. Johnson says of his work what any other woodworker might say:
"The smell of fresh-cut wood, the sound of a sharp saw whisking across a board, the sound of a drill -- all those things really touch my soul,"Make, fix and create...