My blogs usually center around accessibility or disability related topics. A few weeks ago I had an experience that inspired me to write this blog post. This post comes right from my heart.
Many people who know me only through my blog may be surprised to know that I am a quiet guy…a very quiet guy. The source of my quiet nature comes from several places. I am quite shy and consider myself socially awkward. I do well one on one, but groups are not my strength. I have a stutter that has gotten worse over the years, due to CP related issues. As a result, it can take me a while to respond and in those moments people assume I have nothing to say. They either continue talking or walk away. A recent, and very funny example of this happened at a local pub. I went with my mom to watch the Packer game. When the Packers score, pudding shots are handed out. The owner was passing around the pudding shots and asked if I would like one. I was trying to answer but my mouth was caught open in a stutter. She thought I was opening my mouth for the pudding shot and fed it to me! My mom and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Recently, I was invited to a viewing of the Birds in Art Exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. I was so nervous about this whole event. As the event approached I let my nerves get the best of me. Talking about it and the words of encouragement from my mom and friend, Adam, helped me push through. My mom and I took a walk in the museum gardens before the event to help settle my nerves. As I entered the building, I was greeted by the director of the museum. My stutter was on overdrive, as it took probably a full minute for me to say the word “hello”!
We started looking at the beautiful art and then this happened… A very beautiful elderly lady approached us and introduced herself as Alice Woodson Smith. She thanked me for writing the blog in which the museum gardens were mentioned. I was speechless as I began to realize she was the daughter of Margaret Woodson Fisher and granddaughter of Leigh Yawkey Woodson. Her eyes teared up as she told me how much she was touched by my words, a “little slice of heaven”. These were the words I used to described the museum garden which was named in honor of her mother. There are so many things I wanted to say at that moment, but nothing came out. However, as my written words touched her, her spoken words touched me. They are both equally powerful.
Words can be powerful and unpredictable. Words can be used for both good and evil. Words have the power to shoot someone down or elevate them to new levels. Words have the power to heal and they have the power to hurt. We have the power to choose what our words do.
Words and language can take on many forms of symbolism. Written words are lines and shapes which combine and contort into meaning. Written words allow me to fully and completely convey what I want to say. My shyness, stuttering and the effects of my CP are no match to the power of the written word. The words I write give me the power to break out of my shell and be heard.
Words may not always be reliable, but like actions, both can provide clues to someone’s intentions and true nature of their soul. During a difficult transition in my life, I sought out a counselor for guidance. Although this was at least 4 years ago, his words continue to replay in my mind during times of doubt. He told me “You’re a rare breed, not only are you one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, but you also have a huge heart.” The words, “you have a lot to offer…don’t waste it.” have become my motivation and my life’s motto. I am not sure if he knew the impact his words would have on my life, but I hope he does.
Other words have stuck with me throughout my life. Unfortunately, these words were not uplifting but at times of doubt, they also play through my mind. In eighth grade, a teacher during a class experiment stated that eye contact should be automatic. In front of my peers, she pointed out my lack of eye contact. She went on to say that I have limited social skills. I think the most insensitive statement was my handshaking skills were “insincere”. I guess this is the point I should mention that I have very limited physical use of my hands. They are weak and contorted. I know her intent was not to hurt me or feed my self-doubt, but they did and at times of great doubt they continue to.
Through these mentioned experiences, and many more, I have learned that my mom is my hero. Throughout my life, my mom has always instilled in me how important it is to be respectful, polite, humble, and honest. She taught me to remember those traits when standing up for myself. I am careful with my spoken words, knowing and appreciating the power they have. My recent experiences have shown me that my written words have just as much power. It is my responsibility as a blogger and as a representative of the disabled community to use that power to heal, encourage, uplift and join the disabled community with the abled community.
Until next time…keep rollin’ and keep smiling.
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