G is for Generosity – A Story for World Sight Day

Not every book idea appeals to publishers. After S is for Scientists: A Discovery Alphabet, I pitched another alphabet book tentatively titled C is for Courage: A Character Alphabet where each letter stood for a positive characteristic such as responsibility, determination, and of course, courage. Each letter was to be accompanied by a 4 line poem, and then a short story (150 words) about a person or group of people who embodied that quality through their actions and decisions at a time of crisis or need. I liked the concept so I developed a proposal with examples, emailed it to my editor, and waited.

We had a lot of back-and-forth discussion, but unfortunately – as often happens – it wasn’t a proper fit. I received a nice rejection letter, then shelved the idea and went on to develop another proposal. This one landed successfully and turned out to be Surviving the Hindenburg.

As for C is for Courage, not all was a loss. In my preliminary research for the rejected book, I discovered the story of Janis Babson. I had never heard of the courageous girl, or her brave deed, but it seems to me that with World Sight Day, the second Thursday of October, rounding the corner, it is fitting that I should share her short story here, exactly as I wrote it for my proposal.


Janis Babson (Wikipedia)

G is for Generosity

Brave and stubborn,
generous to the end,
Janis’ eyes were a gift
that started a giving trend.

One of the viewers of a 1957 television broadcast about corneal eye transplants was Janis Babson, a 7 year old Canadian girl.  The program described how eyes donated upon death could be used to restore sight for the blind.  Janis was moved by the idea. “Mom, when I die, I want to give my eyes to the eye bank,” she told her mother.

A year later, Janis was diagnosed with leukemia, a type of cancer. Despite treatment, her conditioned worsened.  As the illness advanced, Janis reminded her parents of her request. “I want you to do it,” she told them repeatedly. “Did you make the arrangements?” 

The young girl’s determination won her parents over. Just hours before her death on May 12, 1961, her father signed the necessary consent forms, fulfilling Janis wishes.

The story of Janis’ gift of sight was published in the June 1963 edition of the Reader’s Digest under the title, The Triumph of Janis Babson. Later, it appeared in a best-selling book by author Lawrence Elliot called A Little Girl’s Gift.  Janis’ story circled the globe, inspiring a wave of organ donations and leaving a legacy of generosity that continues to this day.

Janis Babson Daffodils, named for the courageous little girl

For a more detailed story about Janis Babson’s legacy visit Mingu Manubens’s blogsite

1 Comment

  • Josephine Verstraete

    October 2, 2020 at 9:28 am Reply

    a great gift! Thanks for sharing this story!!!

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