It’s been more than a year since I started the Our Land Series and I have to say that I’m honored and amazed at the incredible perspectives and stories you’ve all shared with me here. I appreciate each viewpoint and love that we, together, are helping to raise awareness and empathy for special needs, autism, body image, culture, skin color, insecurity, and so much more. Thank you.
Today, I’m feeling a little nostalgic and want to share the very first Our Land post, written by the lovely Kerry from Transcending CP. Kerry is an amazing 20-year old college sophomore whose writing continually blows me away. This girl is gonna be famous, friends, and when she is, I’ll be able to brag that some of you met her here first. In addition to educating others on how life should be in The Land of Empathy and Wonder, she provides a unique perspective – one of somebody who grants us access to her beautiful mind, smiling face and the challenges of living with mild spastic diplegic CP.
Our Land: The Broken People
I saw the expressions of surprise on my classmates’ faces when I waved to her.
“Oh, you’re friends with her?” they would ask incredulously.
“Yeah,” I would respond. “She’s awesome.” And she was.
I saw the real Emily, the Emily behind the Asperger’s. I saw a girl with a passion for horseback riding, a girl who spotted me outside in a hurricane and came running onto her porch, shouting through the wind to ask if I was okay. I saw a girl who preached the importance of adoption, having been adopted herself. I saw a girl with an unparalleled exuberance for life, a girl with a love for animals. I saw a girl who was the first to offer her hand when I fell in a crowded hallway.
And then one day I walked into the bathroom and found her sobbing with a sandwich in her lap, terrified to venture into the lunchroom because people would tease her, people who couldn’t see the real Emily. Now it was my turn to offer a hand.
“Come with me,” I said. “Promise me you’ll never eat lunch in the bathroom again.”
From that day forward, she ate lunch with my other friends and myself and brightened our days with her quirky sense of humor and beautiful spirit.
I can’t help but wonder: how many other Emilys are there out there, crying behind closed doors? How can we show them that they’re not the broken ones? This world, this world is broken.
I volunteer as a tutor at the local elementary school, and last week, as I was leaving, one of the special education teachers put her hands on my shoulders to stop me. “You should become a special ed teacher,” she said, “because us old people is tired of dealing with the special kids.”
I was speechless. Speechless. What is wrong with the world today? Tired of dealing with the special kids? These kids are special all right, but not in the way that she meant. Children with speech impediments teach the world to slow down and listen, a lesson we all need to learn in this fast-paced, hectic world. Those who can’t speak at all show the world that there are ways of communicating without words, and there are messages that transcend spoken language. Individuals with visual impairments show us that sightedness is blinding in its own way. Those with difficulty walking teach us to slow down and enjoy the journey instead of always focusing on the destination. People with cognitive disabilities show us that there is so much more to life than math, reading, writing, and science.
But most of all, disabilities teach us not to make assumptions about people. Sometimes I trip over my own two feet, and as I stand up again, I hear people laughing. Maybe they think I am exceptionally clumsy for tripping over nothing. Or maybe they are laughing about how I walk with my knees bent and knocking together. I want to look these people in the eyes and ask them: Do you know how difficult it was for me to learn how to walk? Do you know how many times I’ve heard people tell me, “You can’t do that,” only to prove them wrong time and time again? Do you know that it is infinitely more difficult to get up again when I hear you laughing at me? Don’t laugh.
I want to live in a world where nobody has to eat lunch in the bathroom, sobbing because her classmates suffer from a disability called prejudice. I want to live in a world where people with special needs realize that they are just as important as everyone else, a world in which they don’t feel like they must apologize to my peers for talking to me. I want to live in a world where every individual, regardless of disabilities, is seen as a person with endless abilities and endless potential.
The broken people in our world aren’t the ones with speech delays. They aren’t the ones who walk with a limp or use a wheelchair. They aren’t the ones who are deaf, autistic, or visually impaired. They aren’t the ones who struggle with math, reading, writing, or science.
The broken people in our world are the ones who are unable to see the person behind the disability.
See? I told you she is amazing. Show my friend some love here, and check out her incredible words over at Transcending CP. You won’t be disappointed.
Are you interested in contributing to The Our Land Series? Awesome. Please use the contact me form and shoot me an email. Our Land is for all of us. I’m glad you’re here.
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