Saturday, January 1, 2011



Before retirement, I worked with persons with disabilities. What I admire most about those I know who have disabilities is their empathy, courage, persistence, patience, kindness, generosity, and dogged determination that their disability will not inhibit their lives or diminish their self-worth.

What I admire most about those who are related to a person living with a disability and those who advocate for them are their empathy, courage, persistence, patience, kindness, generosity, and dogged determination that our disabilities will not inhibit their lives or diminish their self-worth.

So in that light, I consider disability a gift. Persons with disabilities and those who care for them, are bound together with a common goal- that of encouraging all who are challenged not so much by disabilities but by the barriers of those who do not understand.


It was her first meeting of a support group for persons with dyslexiza and ADD. she had come directly from work, without supper. She was tired and not in a very good mood. It so happened it was also her birthday.

A man carrying a backpack, wearing worn sneakers and needing a shave entered the room and apologized for being late because he had missed his bus. He frequently looked her way and smiled. She was uncomfortable and even a little annoyed.

He introduced himself as Jerry and asked if she wanted a cup of tea. He carefully poured the hot water into a cup, asked if she wanted sweetner and handed it to her.

They said that on birthdays they had a different agenda. Everyone wrote something on a stickie and placed it on her back. She was told not to look at the stickies until she got home.

The notes were very welcoming; “We are glad you joined our group.” “Please come back again.”But the one that struck her the most and humbled her read, “Thank you for letting me fix you a cup of tea. You made me feel special, Jerry.”


When Mom had a stroke everyone at the care facility fell in love with her and her beautiful smile. Her eyes lit up when family, staff or visitors entered her room. She flashed her famous smile that meant, “I’m glad to see you, you are important to me.” She couldn’t talk or swallow. She couldn’t move one side of her body, but she never once showed signs of feeling sorry for herself.

In spite of her life long battle with depression, Mom was grateful for everything she had and felt a responsibility for others less fortunate. She visited nursing homes and took us along. She cared for my Dad for many years when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer. She advocated for social justice.

I miss her and I miss the years before her stroke that I cared for her. People say I did a good thing, retiring early to take care of her. I really did a good thing for myself. It was Mom who helped me by sharing her wisdom, consoling me in my discouragements.

She was a gift to me and others her entire life. It is hard to think of her as having depression even though I was there during her dark and difficult times. She hid her disability from others behind a bright smile. I do not know how she did it. She was herself with me and she let me help her through the difficult times when her depression was the worst. Perhaps that was her greatest gift.- trusting me and letting me know she felt safe when she was with me.


She keeps an empty tin can on the windowsill above her kitchen sink. It is in plain sight on purpose. On the can is a black silhouette of a pig and the words A pork food product donated by the people of the United States Hunger Program. It serves as a reminder of the day she went to the food closet and brought home a bag of groceries for her children's supper.

Inside the can was a small blob of pink flesh in a greasy liquid. She threw it down the sink and gave the children cereal. The can on the sill is not to remind her of how bad things were but to remind her that others in the world don't have the option of even a piece of greasy pork.

She recalls that no matter how bad it seemed at the time, she got through it and that thousands of children die each day from starvation and that there are 1,031,326,050 undernourished people in the world right now and by the time I have ended this sentence the number will have grown by 11 people