Folks at First – Barry Lyons

An Interview with Barry Lyons

You can read the interview included in our April 2018 newsletter.

1. Barry, tell us something about your childhood, your family, and your growing up.

I was born in Regina, Saskatchewan in 1953. Since I was three months premature, my birth weight was about two pounds and my body not fully developed. I was given too much oxygen, which damaged my optic nerves and left me blind. I do not have light perception.

I lived with my parents until both had passed away in 1993. From my 6th to my 18th year, I attended the W. Ross Macdonald school for the blind in Brantford Ontario, and completed grade 12.

From there I went to Central Collegiate in Regina to get full Saskatchewan accreditation. I attended the University of Regina and graduated with a B.A. degree, majoring in psychology and sociology in 1976.

2. I really appreciate the fact that when I speak to you, you answer me by name. Do you have special hearing skills?

I do not have hearing skills above what most sighted people have. I think that the brain compensates for sight loss by taking in more from the hearing, and smelling, and touching senses.

3. Where do you live and how do you manage your everyday life? Do you have help with everyday jobs such as cooking, doing laundry, and cleaning?

I live in the Uplands area of Regina at 108, 15 Alport Crescent. A lady comes in once a month to clean my condo; I do my own cooking and laundry. I have two nephews, who help me with shopping, reading mail, and other needs that arise.

4. Do you ever go shopping?

My nephews do my shopping for me. I sometimes go along with them, and sometimes I just give them a list of what I need.

5. How did you come to First Baptist Church? In what ways in the church important to you?

In 1985, I took an independent living course through the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. My father was supposed to drive me and three other students to the course. However, CNIB hired another driver named Dan Sali to do this. We were travelling to the CNIB building in his car, when a song came on the radio that was sung by Amy Grant. Dan remarked that it was interesting that a Christian singer was being played on a secular radio station, and I agreed. He asked me if I was a Christian, and I said I was. He invited me to attend First Baptist for a Sunday evening service. I enjoyed the service and have attended since that time, first in Young Adults and then throughout my adult life.

I enjoy the Bible-centred preaching and the music that is performed. I appreciate the fact that the congregation has been very accepting of me and that my disability does not get in the way of my participating in the life of the church. I appreciate the love and kindness and acceptance that have been shown to me over these many years.

6. I think it’s great that you sing in the choir. What about it do you enjoy the most? How do you manage to learn the music?

I enjoy the fellowship and the many different styles of music that we sing.

I have help from the other choir members and from Pastor John, who often sings in front of me during the rehearsals and also gives me audio versions of the music, when he has them. I also do my best to listen to the people around me as they sing their parts. Also, God has given me the ability to learn.

7. I have noticed that you come to church by Paratransit. What arrangements, financial and otherwise, do you have with them? Do they give you as many rides as you want?

I use Paratransit to travel around the city. You have to book your trips by phone or email seven days in advance and you must supply the times you want to go and return, realizing that you may not get the exact times you want. Paratransit is a shared ride service, meaning you go from door to door picking up people. Since 2008, the service has been free for persons with a CNIB registration card.

I used to ride to work each day, and have had other trips as well, such as doctors appointments, and social events.

8. When I spoke with you a few years back, you had a job. How did that come to an end?

I worked at Viterra, which used to be the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. I operated a convenience store in the building for the staff. I sold soft drinks and candies and ice cream and other items and snacks. I worked from 1985 to 2015. The building had a subsidized cafeteria until the end of 2015. They decided to no longer subsidize the operation and put in facilities for a private restaurant into the building. The restaurant did not want competition from another operation in the building, so the convenience store was closed and my position was eliminated.

9. How are you supported financially? Do you find what you are given adequate?

I have a work pension and receive CPP as well. I will be getting Old Age Security some time this year, since I turned 65 on February 15th. This means there will be a reduction in my work pension. I have been able to live in my condo since 2014 and pay the mortgage, and so forth. Previously, from 1993 until her death in 2014, I lived with my sister. I used to pay rent to her and help with groceries too.

10. I’ve noticed that the men in the choir are always ready to help you when you need it. What else could we as your church family do to make your life better?

I would appreciate prayer always, as living on my own is quite challenging. I want to thank the many people in the congregation and choir and in the TNT group for helping me as I adapted and continue to adapt to living on my own.

11. What kind of social life do you have?

I am a member of the Regina Central Lions Club and help them with different community activities, fund raising, and so forth. I also am a member of the Canadian Council for the Blind, and we have a social activity several times a year. These can be meals together, social and games nights, and so on. I am also in a Seniors’ support group for people who are visually impaired. We have guest speakers and workshops on how to live with vision loss.

12. Is there anything else you would like to say to our congregation?

Thank you for your love and acceptance of me as a person. I appreciate being treated as a normal person in spite of having a disability. I appreciate being welcomed and being able to participate with the rest of the congregation in the building of FBC.

13. Barry, I can’t think of any reason why you would not be accepted and loved as a member of our church. After all you are our brother, and a fine one too.

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Interviewer: Esther Wiens