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Meeting adversity well.

Posted Mar 02 2010 12:00am
The question isn't wheter or not whether you're going to meet adversity, but how you're going to meet it. Aimee Mullins

My friend Maureen, over at Writing without Paper posted a link this morning to an amazing talk Aimee Mullins gave at Ted Talks last year. In her talk, Aimee describes how she had to overcome other people's considerations of her as 'disabled' since her legs were amputated below the knees before she was one year old. It wasn't until Aimee looked up the definition of the word 'disabled' that she discovered how limiting the word could have been, if she'd known it earlier on in her life.

We are the words we use to describe ourselves and our capabilities. We become limited by the words we allow others to describe us with.

I work in an environment where the label "The homeless" is stamped upon the heads of those we serve by people who do not understand the power of words to limit or to expand someone's horizons. For three and a half years I have adamantly refused to use the phrase, "The Homeless." Instead, when talking about the work we do and the people we serve, I will state, 'individuals experiencing homelessness,' 'homeless citizens', or, 'the people we serve'.

In a conversation with a co-worker yesterday, we discussed the effects of the 'housing first' model on individuals experiencing homelessness and whether there was some way to make it work without disempowering those being housed. Listening to Aimee's speech this morning (thank you Maureen !), I realized what has disturbed me about the idea of 'giving someone a home as their way out of homelessness', is the fact that what we, 'the housed', the people in power, are saying to someone who has fallen into homelessness and is struggling to find their way out is -- You don't have the power to do it. We have to do it for you. You are your homeless limitations, and you are disabled.

I said to my co-worker yesterday, "There's a place in me that says, if someone gives you a home because you're living in a shelter, we are saying several things. 1) Living in a shelter is bad. 2) it doesn't matter how you got there, you're incapable of getting yourself out. 3) You are not capable of taking responsibility for what you've done to draw you to the shelter and you are not capable of change, of growth, of embracing this adversity and using it as a driving force of change in your life.

It does matter how someone got into homelessness. It does matter that they are there. In being there, each person has an opportunity to awaken to their true potential. Or not. What drove them into homelessness is the 'thing' they need to overcome. And no one can overcome, go through, prevail against, or change something they choose to deny.

When I say, let me get you out of there, I am saying, "Here, let me reward you for what has gone wrong in your life. It's not your fault and anyway, you have no potential to change anything in your life. So give up trying. I'll do it for you."

And in my insistence that I know the answers, even though it's unspoken, I am asserting, "You are disabled."

It's time. Time to look at the world through 'enabling' eyes and to acknowledge, we are all filled with limitless potential, limitless possibilities. It is our language, the words we use to limit our movement, our thinking, our abilities, that are keeping us from living up to our highest good, of awakening to our greatest thinking.

No one is disabled until they believe it's so.

Everyone is 'abled' until they believe they're not.

In Aimee Mullins words, "There is adversity and challenge in life, and it's all very real and relative to every single person... our responsibility is not simply shielding those we care for from adversity, but preparing them to meet it well... In our desire to protect those we care about by giving them the cold, hard truth about their medical prognosis, or, indeed, a prognosis on the expected quality of their life, we have to make sure that we don't put that first brick in a wall that will actually disable someone. Perhaps the existing model of only looking at what is broken in you and how do we fix it, serves to be more disabling to the individual than the pathology itself."

This is a talk worth hearing. An important message to inspire in each of us an assessment of what we believe our limitations to be and the language we use to constrain ourselves from igniting the full potential of our most magnificent selves onto the universe.

We need to change our thinking to change our limitations.

We are capable beyond our wildest imaginings. We are each of us unique and special. Each of us capable of greatness. Of being our most amazing selves in a world full of wonder. There are no limits on our possibilities when we think beyond the borders of our fears to embrace the potency of our dreams.

There is adversity in life. And there are dreams. May you meet them well.

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