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114H (1)Any time people see me on a regular basis, I’m limping. Or I’ve got gauze around my arm from an infusion. Or I’m using a cane – sometimes even crutches.

So when they see me, their natural instinct is always to tell me about their own illnesses. Of course, they mean well. They believe that by doing this, they’re showing concern for my well-being. But honestly, I’m not too fond of the fact that I’ve come to symbolize pain to them.

When I think about it, I really don’t know anything meaningful about them. I see the cashier at the store once a week, and I know about her infirmities in great detail. But what of the dream in her heart, perhaps it was to be a dancer in a ballet troupe? Or maybe she wanted to own a little flower shop, selling peonies and zinnias. Why is it that tragedy and turmoil have become the “greatest hits” of our lives, when somebody asks us who we are?

The dream in my own heart is to find a way to embody hope and not pain. I want to become so connected with positivity and encouragement that those I encounter at the mall or the post office don’t have time to tell me their problems.  They’ll be too busy counting off their blessings for me!

I want to tell them to pack all their troubles in an old kit bag.  Then I want them to drop that bag into the sea of forgetfulness. I don’t want them to carry that bag around with them, as if this is the sum total of who they are. Life doesn’t stop at the moment something bad happened, so don’t make those horrible things the point at which you stop living. The path goes on far beyond the pain.

So please, people.  When you see me, don’t mention that I seem more wobbly than usual. Compliment me on my new purple sneakers! Don’t reel off your aches and pains to me. Tell me about your grandkids and your garden. Talk to me about your most cherished dreams, the wonder of a sunset, that beautiful sonata that lights you up when you hear it.

On this day, when we remember those taken from us on that indelible morning thirteen years ago, there’s something we can do in their memory. Don’t dwell on your troubles. Don’t stay stuck in the past. For the sake of those we lost, let’s live.

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I’ve got a veritable village of health care people taking care of me these days – doctors, nurses, physical therapists, lab technicians.  It’s a team that’s taken me from being inert in a hospital bed last year to up and around (if wobbly) these days.

I’ve gotten to know my health care specialists pretty well, so I was surprised to learn that a lady on my physical therapy team has health issues of her own.

“But you look so hale and hearty!”  I insisted when she told me she didn’t always feel well.

“Everybody’s got something to deal with,” she said, as she continued to open the mail and adjust the schedule. She strikes me as someone who can do anything she sets her mind to.  Like nothing will ever hold her back.

I told her how much I appreciated her good attitude, and that I felt it was good for her own life, but also beneficial for the patients as we focus on healing.  She said, “Whatever we have to go through, it is what it is.  You’ve just gotta keep going.”

Now that is the gospel truth.

At the local grocery store, I often see a cashier who reels off her troubles to me as she rings up the groceries.  She has health and money woes, as so many do, but here’s the problem:  she believes her life will always be this way.  “If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” she shakes her head. She came into a little bit of extra money and of course, her car broke down.  “Just my luck!” she bemoaned.

I’ve come to believe that having a bad attitude is worse than having a chronic condition. Having a disability is beyond your control in most cases; having a negative mindset is completely self-induced. If you can’t find one blessed thing in your life to feel grateful for, you’re just not paying attention.

Sometimes you’ve got to decide that life is worth living before you even see good things manifesting in your life.  Change the story you tell about your own life and – for goodness’ sake – get out of your own way.  Providence, prayer and persistence are all you need to get things headed in the right direction.

Sometimes God puts a big dream in your heart, and you survey the breadth and depth of it… and promptly talk yourself out of it.

For years, I’ve had a vision of starting what (in my mind, at least) I’m calling the “Block Project.” I’ve thought of naming it “Here to Help” or H2H.

So many people on my block are unemployed or on a fixed income. Many mouths to feed/bills to pay/never enough. Struggling to get by.

What if, instead of having a Neighborhood Watch, all of the neighbors watched out for each other?  

What if the carpenter across the street used his skills to fix the fence of the widow down the road?  What if she, in turn, gave the carpenter’s daughter piano lessons in a kind of barter/honor system?

What if, instead of talking about Mrs. Jones’ overgrown weeds, someone stopped by her house to make sure she was okay?  And maybe even offered to mow the lawn for her?

What if the guy with the green thumb helped every neighbor plant a tidy little garden, so they could eat well in the summer, and can for the winter? What if people having a hard time paying the heating bill could receive help from a general emergency fund?

But even though I’ve thought about this for years – even going so far as to discuss it with my teen-age son and ask if he’ll be the Computer Tech for the database (what people need help with/the skill set of each neighbor/resources available) – I have yet to do a single thing to put this idea into motion.

I did a little math in my mind and decided that having a disability and no resources meant that this was just a pipedream, but still.  The idea keeps coming back to me. 

It just seems that even though I can see putting my heart into it, how do I put my back into it? After all, I’m limping around from the effects of MS and spend many an hour sick in bed.  How do I even begin?  Where would the money come from? How would you get people to “buy in” and help out?  I guess the naysaying-critic in my mind is asking: Who am I to claim this scale of dream, anyway?

So I thought I’d write a post about this and see what you dear readers think. Any thoughts?  Even if you don’t have an idea about logistics, would you kindly do me a solid (as we say in Jersey) and like this post? Sure, it’s a big dream, but a little encouragement would go a long way. Thanks, dear people!

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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