Material "blessings" often tend to be the focus of our culture during this Thanksgiving season. True, some focus on the non-material: love, family, nature. Stretch with me to the next stepping stone here in the disAbility community:
For some time, a few quiet, wise voices have called attention to how our educational system for students with disAbilities tends to focus on deficits instead of accentuating and celebrating the assets of those with disAbilities and the life we lead. Standing now at the perilous precipice of adulthood, peering down into the black hole of diminishing services, again, I am faced with the reality that culturally--in our disAbility community and in the society outside of us--we are dwelling in the have nots and the cannots instead of the haves and the cans.
I encourage mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers and those who work with and love individuals with disAbilities to join in the thanksgiving, this season and everyday, in what our loved ones with disAbilities CAN do. What I have learned from the model of Nashville's Brightstone program, though a segregated model, is that EVERYONE can work. Yes, this might be arguable for some whose disAbility makes them confined to a bed, but there are many others who use wheelchairs, who have no hand motor skills or language skills (my daughter is not conversational,) for whom, if we are inventive, can find work. And, yes, it also takes a match with willing employers. Which is part of why, until we can find said employers opening up their hearts and workplaces for us, entrepreneurialism is a wonderful and obvious choice.
What does your loved one like to do? At what do they excel? At any age. How can you capitalize on that? It may be computer skills that can gain them entry into a four year or two-year college program or a college program with disAbility accommodations. Or organizing cans at a local supermarket. Or being a store greeter.
For many of us, the assets can and do include the gift of a pure spirit, an undying smile, and the lessons they bring to us of tolerance, patience and unconditional love. Ah, the lessons! Yes, the lessons I would not have learned in any other way than this life of differing ability. They give us the opportunity to see our own disAbilities, our own ways in which all we need assistance.
Once again, when I focus on counting all the aspects of this life for which to be grateful, my well of heart joy begins to spill over.
In this season of grateFULLness, may we remember to extend our heart thanks to those who came into our world in a different package and to see them for what they contribute to our lives and culture, instead of what we think and perceive and see that they cannot.
Grace Walker Goad, pictured above, has had an ARTrepreneurial business since she was eight. Her original art, notecards and tiles sell in Nashville area galleries and stores and have been exhibited from coast to coast.
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