My “morning chore” this morning included cleaning up the porch and putting patio furniture up for the season. Each Autumn I accomplish this task, I’m reminded how desperately our deck needs replaced. I haven’t been out on the deck in about a week and was startled to find more Zinnias in full bloom. Don’t they know it’s late October? Most had died and I thought part of my morning chore for this designated “deck clean-up” morning was going to be to shut the flower pots down for the year. I just couldn’t do it… not with brand new Zinnias raising their beautiful colorful heads to celebrate this Fall Fashion Show going on in mid-Maryland right now!
I explained to Chloe how surprised I was to see brand new blooms on the Zinnias. Patient dog that she is she listened attentively, but I could tell she didn’t really understand what all the excitement was about! But you see? The Zinnias were not finished…
Disabled and finished?
This week I received a tearful email from a fellow HLAA ( Hearing Loss Association of America ) member. She was upset about the state of her local chapter. It seems they are having trouble attracting new members and the old members are rarely participating. They are SPECTATORS, but not PARTICIPATORS. A peer mentor at one of the local hospitals that performs cochlear implants for people in our area, she explained to me that she cannot even generate any interest in those relatively new to hearing loss.
“You can see that the word ‘disability’ has sunk into their very soul, impacting the way they choose to live their lives,” she explained . “I try to explain to them that hearing again through a cochlear implant is something to be celebrated! It is not normal, perfect hearing, but it is hearing and choosing to stay involved in the hearing world in which they were a part! If you talk to them you can tell they are depressed, defeated, and ACTING disabled. It’s as if all the color has gone out of their lives.”
I thought about my own support group and local chapter of HLAA. There are a handful of people who volunteer for everything, work hard at making sure the chapter is well run, make it a priority to attend each month, and reach out to other members who are on the ‘roll’.
These folks stand out. They smile, are involved in numerous OTHER community endeavors, love people, make a difference… they are colorful. In spite of their hearing loss, deafness, communication needs and problems, they are noticeable because of their focus on ABILITY instead of DISABILITY.
Fidos For Freedom participates in dAp programs throughout Maryland. Chloe and I have been to two of these early on in our training together. The disABILITY Awareness Program was started in the late 1970’s. The intent of dAp is to educate children and their teachers about disabilities, what it’s like to be a person with a disability, and to increase acceptance of people who may be ‘different’. I’m given the opportunity to talk about what I CAN do. Fidos For Freedom has been instrumental in helping me to be independent again. I have learned so much about what it means to live “in spite of” a disability. There are so many different disabilities represented in our client family. For many, being partnered with a canine partner helps them focus on the “can do” instead of what they cannot. Many enter the training program at Fidos pretty much beaten down by the fact that their life is now completely different because of a disability. They finish their training in full bloom. They stand out and make a difference. Their independence grants them the courage to re-take their life.
I love people with disabilities. Near and dear to my heart are populations with hearing loss, deafness, Meniere’s disease and brain injury. I belong to these populations. I wrote back to my friend this week and tried to encourage her. Many small chapters of organizations like HLAA have to make the decision to perhaps only meet quarterly instead of monthly. What you can’t do is “close shop”. If you make a difference in ONE person each year, is that not important?
Do you feel alone? Ever feel as if you are carrying the load alone and GEE HAS IT BECOME HEAVY? You may be one voice. Are you caring for an elderly parent who has Alzheimer’s? Are you a stay-at-home mom with three little ones under 5-years-old and no one at home SPEAKS ADULT? Do you work with people with addictions, and feel your heart breaking every time someone returns to their drugs or alcohol? Do you love someone with TBI who will never be the same person they were prior to their accident? Do you or a loved one live with a terminal illness?
You can remain in FULL BLOOM … in spite of it being late October. You can be ONE VOICE that makes a difference. An amazing thing can happen to ONE VOICE that remains in full bloom in spite of the season. It may take time and a lot of effort. It may not even happen in your lifetime. But one voice is usually joined by another… and then Another… and ANOTHER. You may never discover your own influence this side of Heaven. Be influential anyway. Stay in full bloom. Be one voice… one that makes a difference. If your life is all that is changed, is that a bad thing?
Some of you may cringe. I love Barry Manilow. (Sue me!) My older brother got me hooked on him in the late 70’s. This is a short song, but I ask you to listen to it and think about it from the point of view of making a difference.