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Learn and Grow

December 29, 2016

Join with Us and Celebrate the True Spirit of the New Year

Celebrate the New YearIn modern times, New Year’s resolutions are goals for the coming year.

However, the New Year tradition dates back over 4,000 years, and was actually about reflecting on the prior year. Put simply, it was about looking back, as opposed to looking forward, and using that momentum to improve.

There’s a lot of empowerment in using the New Year to look back. After all, through the good times and the tough times of the past year, we made it!

It’s via this enlightened lens that New Year’s serves as an especially poignant annual milestone for those of us living with disability, illness or any adversity. We made it!

For those among us who made it through our first year of adversity, it’s a wonderful time to look back on the strengths and wisdom gained – maybe some we didn’t fathom we had until we drew it from deep within. Those among us who have faced years or a lifetime of adversity know it’s a fitting time to look back and remind ourselves how far we’ve traveled on this journey. For all of us, it’s an opportunity to realize that we made it with courage and tenacity through the year, and that, in itself, is something to celebrate.

Hardships are easy to look back upon, but the scars earned can be tough to appreciate. The fact is, no one chooses adversity. However, when adversity finds us, and we move through it, the scars become records of strength and courage – and that recognition is life-affirming.

We owe it to ourselves – and New Years is the perfect time – to look at all life has thrown our way, and say, “I made it, and I’m stronger because of it!”

Within all adversity resides opportunity, and nothing marks opportunity like the New Year. Let us all use what we’ve experienced as wind in our sails, moving with increased strength and wisdom into the New Year.

None of us can predict what the New Year will bring; but, we’ve already proven that whatever it is, we can handle it.

As author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, put it, “Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself….”

 

November 30, 2016

Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016

In 1992, the United Nations founded the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

In 1992, the United Nations founded the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

The theme for 2016’s International Day is, “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want,” which draws attention to the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals that strive to create a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.

What’s inspiring about this year’s theme is that the “17 goals” don’t stem from merely those with disabilities, but they are literally the U.N.’s initiatives for all people around the world.

The goals range from ending hunger to quality education to gender equality to climate action, and so on. Truly, what this year’s theme says is that people with disabilities are… well… just people after all. That’s an empowering, inclusive world view.

See, among the foremost reasons those with disabilities have been historically disenfranchised around the globe is because their needs – read that, our needs, among those of us with disabilities – have been viewed as somehow different. Of course, there’s never truly been a difference. Those of us who have disabilities have always needed, wanted and deserved what everyone else needs, wants and deserves – that is, education, family, community and career, to name a few. Yet, over modern decades, in modern societies, our supposed needs have been noted as “different,” and in that well-meaning but skewed societal view, we’ve consequently been treated differently. For example, we were given “equal access” to architectural barriers, which often really meant a separate entrance, as opposed to “universal access,” where everyone has the same architectural access, walking, wheeling or otherwise.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

However, this year, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the U.N. has put a stake in the ground. The U.N. has proclaimed that the needs of those with disabilities are the needs of all people – there is no difference. And, let us hope that the U.N.’s 17 goals for mankind come to fruition because then we will simply have the International Day of People, a day that celebrates true equality for all.

November 23, 2016

Disability and Illness: Looking at the Positive Side

disability and illness

disability and illnessWhen it comes to disability and illness, no one wants or wishes it.

Yet, for many of us, they are a part of life. And, there within that phrase – it’s part of life – resides a key perspective. Yes, disability and illness can be challenging, harrowing and difficult. Yet, may I be bold enough to ask, might they also be life-affirming?

As one who’s had a severe disability for 45 years, works among those with disability and illness, and is immersed in disability culture, I’ve had unique insight into all of the ways disability and illness impact our lives – including for the better. I know it sounds counter-intuitive that disability and illness can positively impact our lives, but they truly can.

While it’s very clear how we’re adversely affected by disability and illness, the rewards are equally poignant. Disability and illness can bring astounding levels of humility and perspective to our lives, and allow us to sometimes see a kinder world, to experience the best in others, to realize what’s truly important. Yes, disability and illness can shine a light on that which is right in our lives, not just the tough stuff.

Roll up to a door in a mobility device in public, and it’s amazing how strangers scramble to open the door in kindness. See who sits by your bedside when you’re ill and experience true love. Realize your own astounding strength when facing challenges and grow in empowerment. Indeed, adversity opens us up to awe-inspiring aspects of life that we may not otherwise experience.

It’s understandable to see negatives in disability and illness; however, life is not one-dimensional. Disability and illness are a part of life. In fact, disability and illness prove to be many parts of our lives.Yes, difficult at times. Other times, indifferent. But, let us not overlook the positives, as well – that is, what disability and illness teach us, show us, and gift us.

Helen Keller wrote, “It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.

Indeed, for all of us, regardless of plight, when we look at the other side of the coin, it, too, shows how much we’ve been given.

November 17, 2016

Honoring Caregivers during National Family Caregivers month

Family caregiver month

 

In honoring caregivers, let us not only be thankful for the care we may receive, but likewise be thankful for those who care.

Family caregivers know this first hand. It is said that we never realize how loved we are until times of need. There’s truth to that – a wonderful truth. However, there’s a second truth: we don’t know how deeply we can love until we give of ourselves to someone in need.

When adversity strikes our health, it’s astounding how so many caregivers rise in our most vulnerable times, with grace and dignity that doesn’t just physically help us, but also emotionally heals us. It can be as simple as a neighbor who brings a home-cooked meal every eve, or as complex as a spouse who must help bathe us. Sometimes it’s a paid, skilled professional, with a heart of gold, who goes beyond a job description to address not just the patient, but also the person. Indeed, caregivers are diverse, varying based on the situation.

Yet, they share one common trait: they put one in need before oneself. Caregivers don’t just care – they give of themselves, selflessly, in an authentic way that reveals the purest humanity.

The philosopher, Laozi, said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” So many caregivers exhibit such courage, where they give of themselves in even the most harrowing of circumstances, often in ways no one ever sees or knows. It’s the husband who helps his wife bathe and dress for church, where he does her hair and makeup so perfectly that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t deter her Sunday’s best. It’s the mother who was up all night consoling her son who doesn’t sleep well due to autism, then goes to work in the morning, smiling. And, it’s the adult son who ensures every aspect of his mother’s care, all while caring for his own family. These are the types of caregivers who love and give and serve with little recognition, and dare to love deeply, with courage, sometimes alone in their efforts.family caregivers month

As we honor caregivers, let us not only be thankful for the care we ourselves, receive, but likewise be thankful for those who care. Let us acknowledge the selflessness that caregivers exhibit simply because they love deeply, with humanity and courage, where the reciprocity of caregiving ultimately gives to us all.