The gem within the disability

My dad in traction at the Hines VA Hospital

My dad’s right leg was four inches shorter than his left but he proved to all who knew him that a disability need not diminish a person. The WWII shrapnel lodged in his leg where it joined the hip landed him in the Hines VA Hospital for four years and the doctors predicted that he would never walk again. So he took up golf, with enough skill to coach it, and sired five more children. I never heard him complain about the pain that must have been unrelenting.

I witnessed that a disability need not diminish a person and may call forth a depth that many fully abled people miss completely.

Those whose bodies don’t work well have their “soul work” cut out for them. Navigating a disability, including the five stages of grief–1) denial and isolation; 2) anger; 3) bargaining; 4) depression; and 5) acceptance–is a tall order but the payoff could be lifesaving.

74-year-old Stephen Hawking is a striking example of living a full and productive life with ALS disease. Diagnosed shortly after his 21st birthday, he has lived with this for 53 years. Of course, it helps that he is brilliant, has the support of a loving family, and is financially comfortable. Still, he  must have done the soul work required to avoid bitterness.

This short video of Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan shows their invaluable contribution to the world. Where would Helen Keller have been without her teacher?

Housing is an issue for many people and an especially thorny one for those with disabilities. We would be much better off as a culture if we learn to see the person instead of the disability. Just as learning to see through the eyes of a child is a gift, learning to see through the eyes of a person with a disability could be a gift as well.

Of course the scariest thing is that, deep in our hearts, we know that we could be next. Life can change in an instant and anyone could find themselves wheelchair bound.

Having advocated for home sharing with people you like for many years, I have long thought that it is particularly appropriate for those with disabilities. This would be infinitely better than housing just for those with disabilities, an environment that would depress even the hardiest spirit.

My effort to facilitate home sharing with people who like each other is gaining traction. I expect to host introductory gatherings and housing mixers at ADA accessible venues soon.

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4 thoughts on “The gem within the disability

  1. The idea of home sharing is a great one. I’d like to find people interested in it who are elders as well as younger people. Right now, I share mine with a small, young family of 3. My cognitively disabled brother shares his Habitat for Humanity home with 2 others, but that is required in order for him to receive Medicaid waiver services by a residential provider, and he is not allowed sufficient choice. Still, it is far better than living in an apartment somewhere, and he and his housemates are more a part of the community.

  2. Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for your comments. I’m happy to hear that you share your home with a young family and that your brother is in a good community too. This idea seems so logical, doesn’t it? I think the regulations will become more reasonable when our country returns to its senses, which, I pray will be sooner rather than later. May I ask how you came across this post?

  3. Terry,
    This is an excellent article, with a well thought out vision.
    Keep me posted.

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